The main objectives of WP3 are to understand the present impact of changes in sea ice, environment and socio-economic conditions on the livelihoods of indigenous communities in northwest Greenland, to investigate how past changes affected previous indigenous cultures and their adaptive capacities and survival strategies, and to develop strategies for the application of anticipatory knowledge by communities to help them prepare for and negotiate change in the future. This will help improve climate predictions for understanding the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems and Arctic societies and enable communities to build capacity towards ensuring sustainable livelihoods. In seeking to understand the nature of the vulnerabilities of high Arctic communities to accelerating climate change, the research will place climate change impacts in context and will examine societal, political, economic, institutional, and legal barriers to adaptation.

Research will focus on the inter-linkages between present changes in environmental and socio-economic conditions within indigenous communities in northwest Greenland and will be covered by three sub-work packages. The work will be undertaken in a high latitude environment where several Arctic communities are present and will involve:

  • Collection of data to outline local and regional impacts and experiences of climate change, the dynamics, socio-economics and political ecology of resource use, non-renewable resource development and the adaptive capacities of local communities derived from in-depth collaborative ethnographic research with local people, and working through the Greenlandic language.
  • Collection of data on the present state of marine living resources and their use in the community hunting areas.
  • Field studies to characterize the present state of sea ice to enable quantification of environmental challenges and changes met by changing environmental and sea ice conditions. This work will be done together with the communities, e.g. by installing scientific sensors and instruments on their sledges, continuing a current initiative (Wilkinson et al., 2011).

A further aspect of the WP is to place recent changes in an archaeological and historical context by unravelling the impact of changes on cultures over the last 4500 years where Greenland has experienced several episodes of human colonization and cultural transitions. The project will deal with the fate of past societies by focusing on the adaption strategies of cultures in relation to changes in sea ice climate and the environment. This work will provide:

  • Quantitative and high-resolution climatic records for the last 4500 years by investigations of marine sediment cores from sites near former settlements and migration routes. The data will enable a reconstruction of changes in sea ice, climate and environment that inflicted former cultures.
  • Observations of how past changes affected previous indigenous cultures, their adaption strategies and how the social structures changed will contribute to understanding how contemporary indigenous communities will be able to react and change their hunting strategies relative to the present changing environment.

Results from the studies of recent changes will be placed in context with similar studies in Canada, USA and Russia in order to derive a pan-Arctic understanding of challenges associated with Arctic change, to unravel the socio-economic consequences, and to understand local adaptive capacity, resilience and vulnerability.


Expected Outcome:

This work package will seek to understand climate change impacts on communities in Greenland, how people develop adaptive strategies in the face of such change, and how they strive to maintain sustainable livelihoods today. We will provide scientific and policy-focused knowledge that will be used within WP4 and WP5 for understanding and responding to climate change challenges in order to safeguard Arctic marine living resources for human communities. Through the development of new methods for long-term societal and economic development scenarios we will contribute to understanding human-environment relations, resource use, and coupled socio-ecological systems, and contribute to deeper understanding of the large-scale drivers of climate variability and impacts on society and environment in Greenland. These outputs will be used by WP5 to derive effective policy and management options for societal responses to change in the Arctic marine environment.