Alaska study offers strategies to mitigate climate warming

FAIRBANKS, Alaska--Using Interior Alaska's boreal forests as a case study, a team of scientists led by University of Alaska Fairbanks ecologist F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III recently offered four policy strategies for sustaining people and the environment as both face a dramatically warming climate.

Chapin, a professor at the Institute of Arctic Biology and member of the National Academy of Sciences, is the lead author in an interdisciplinary team of ecologists, anthropologists, an economist, a historian and a political scientist that published the recommendations in a recent issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors identified Alaska as a particularly appropriate place to apply their strategies because ecosystem services such as water, food, and fuel, which are key processes that mediate climate effects on society, are critical to the sustainability of rural livelihoods and culture.

In Alaska, climate warming has triggered more intense and extensive wildfires, bark beetle outbreaks, lowered regional water tables, increased permafrost thaw and subsequent thermokarsts, which contribute to the failure of roads, homes and other infrastructure.

"We took stock of these changes and from that we assessed what society is going to need to respond to these changes," said Gary Kofinas, co-author and coordinator of the Resilience and Adaptation Program at UAF. The policy recommendations, Kofinas said, address "... what we need to do and what can we do to retain the properties of the social and ecological systems in which we live."

The first strategy focuses on enhancing humans' adaptability to a warming climate by integrating science and technology with local knowledge, and by integrating science, management and local needs using what the authors call adaptive management and governance.

The second strategy focuses on enhancing the resiliency of people and the envir

Contact: Marie Gilbert
University of Alaska Fairbanks

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