Climate change, moose, and subsistence harvest: social-ecological assessment of Nuiqsut, Alaska


Assessing the impact of a rapidly warming climate on subsistence-based livelihoods in the Arctic is critical for building resilience for rural communities. We used a social-ecological system (SES) framework to evaluate the possible range of changes in moose abundance, distribution, and harvesting for Nuiqsut, a small native community in northern Alaska. Our results indicate that within the area used for hunting by the village, moose (Alces alces) abundance has been highly variable despite recent increases in tall shrubs, which provide forage and cover for moose. Projections for moose abundance also indicate continued fluctuation in the future. Our analysis shows that future increases in moose distribution under a warming climate will not be in river systems accessible to hunters by boat. Hunter access (i.e., river navigability) also may not increase under warming. The community of Nuiqsut thus offers a case study of high exposure to an expansion of moose habitat and distribution under warming, but low sensitivity to this change because of constraints on harvesting. These outcomes are not evident when evaluating social and ecological components separately, illustrating the value of an SES approach. They also provide an example in which a rapid change in an arctic landscape and subsistence resource under climate warming may not translate into altered harvest opportunities.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Jiake Zhou
Gary Kofinas
Knut Kielland
Randall Boone, Colorado State University
Laura Prugh
Ken Tape
Ecology and Society