Berry-producing plants are a key subsistence resource in Indigenous Alaskan communities. Coastal, high-latitude regions are particularly impacted by global climate change because their location at the land-sea ecotone subjects them to both terrestrial stressors and shifting ocean dynamics. Although changes in near-shore vegetation communities have been previously documented for the sub-Arctic coastal region of Alaska, we know little about vegetation dynamics in the permafrost-underlain portions of the landscape that support berry communities. To fill this gap, surveys were administered in four communities within the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to identify observations of changes in berry resources and integrate Indigenous Knowledge of drivers of changes with climate projections. We found that while many participants identified changes in berry phenology, abundance, and habitat related to climate drivers, important differences in responses were identified at the community level. Regional consensus can be used in combination with climate projections to forecast potential future impacts to berry resources, while distinctions at the community level can help to account for impacts of local scale disturbances and importance of social context.

Citation

Herman, Mercer, N., Loehman, R.A., Toohey, R.C. and Paniyak, C.. 2020. Climate and disturbance driven changes in subsistence berries in coastal Alaska: Using Indigenous knowledge to inform ecological inference. Human Ecology. 48: 85-99. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10745-020-00138-4. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-020-00138-4.