Results of local community studies


The Arctic environment is changing rapidly. A range of observing approaches is being used to increase our understanding of the environment and to mobilize sound decisions in response. To demonstrate ‘real world’ examples of the benefits of cross-weaving data from local and scientific observation systems, we have prepared a series of policy briefs. These policy briefs are presented in this report. The key observations and recommendations in the policy briefs are summarized below.

Through dialogue with civil society organizations, research institutions and the local authorities, we have identified four topics of high priority to local communities where local/citizen-based and scientific observations are important and where recommendations for better-informed decisions and better-documented processes are pertinent:

 Local and scientific observations for improving fisheries in Greenland
 Natural disasters in Disko Bay, Greenland
 Monitoring Svalbard’s environment and cultural heritage by expedition cruises
 Natural disasters in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Local and scientific observations for improving fisheries in Greenland. Fisheries are of great importance in Greenland but there is uncertainty as to future sustainability and stock dynamics. Fisheries management advice is currently based mainly on catch statistics and researchers' surveys although there is growing international recognition that user knowledge is valuable. The new agreement on the future of fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean gives user knowledge from coastal communities a central role in the future management of fishery resources. In the 1st policy brief, we summarize what we know about how user knowledge can be incorporated into fisheries management in Greenland. For the past ten years, the Greenland government has been testing ways of incorporating user knowledge in the management of fish and other living resources in Disko Bay. Experienced fishermen have been systematically discussing and reporting on the status of several fish species. They have also provided possible explanations for changes in stocks and have proposed specific management measures. The methods tested have provided valuable knowledge on the development of several stocks. Using these tested methods, users have come up with management proposals that both expand and limit fishing activity. In addition to bringing important knowledge into play on the various fish stocks, the inclusion of user knowledge in fisheries management offers better opportunities for: 1) Obtaining knowledge from wider geographical areas; 2) Early detection of stock changes; 3) Establishing user and site-specific knowledge for management plans in specific management areas; 4) Promoting realistic local regulations e.g. of trawling; and 5) Strengthening the use of regulatory tools such as quotas, legal gear, zoning and seasons. Increased incorporation of user knowledge helps to create a meaningful dialogue between users, researchers and managers. This can lead to fewer conflicts and greater co-ownership in relation to the management decisions that are made. The methods tested are based on recognized international practice, the “multiple evidence-based approach”. Ten years of collecting user knowledge on fishing in Disko Bay has shown that it can significantly contribute to the understanding of fishing and the status of fish stocks. User knowledge has been shown to be able to quickly detect changes. Despite the fact that a process has been underway regarding the use of user knowledge in Disko Bay, there is a lack of systematic support for the inclusion of user knowledge in Greenland. If there is to be real involvement of user knowledge in fisheries management then concrete support is needed to ensure that this knowledge is incorporated at national level. It is recommended that the inclusion of user knowledge be written into the aims of the new Fisheries Act.

Natural disasters in Disko Bay, Greenland. Many people remember the landslide in the Karratfjord, north of Disko Bay, Greenland in 2017. With climate change, more landslides, earthquakes and other natural disasters are to be expected in the Arctic. In the 2nd policy brief, we summarize what we know today about landslides and earthquakes in Disko Bay, and what can be done by authorities and contractors to adapt new buildings and roads to these conditions. Hunters and fishermen in Disko Bay have, for some time, been participating in measuring earthquakes. The geological conditions in Disko Bay are characterized by bedrock as well as sandstone, shale and volcanic deposits. Disko Bay is located on the North American geological plate, which is moving to the west away from Europe, and this creates tension in the subsoil that triggers landslides. Tensions are also building up in the subsoil due to the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet but the effects of this on the size and frequency of earthquakes in Disko Bay are unknown. To reduce the effects of landslides and earthquakes, including possible abrupt changes in topography (land uplift), it is recommended that: 1) The municipal councils of Qeqertalik and Avannaata municipalities look at whether the critical infrastructure is secured against strong earthquakes, landslides and tidal waves. Moreover it is suggested that they assess the potential consequences of such natural disasters and have action plans ready when they occur; 2) The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure should develop guidelines for protection from natural disasters; 3) The contractors in Disko Bay should look at the strength of vibrations that all planned installations can withstand and whether precautions should be taken against strong tremors in the planning phase. The advantages of these measures are that, when the natural disaster occurs, the damage is less and they are better prepared to deal with the consequences. The risk of landslides and earthquakes will always be present but, with a better understanding of the risk, one can prepare and reduce the damage caused by landslides and earthquakes. Measurements taken by hunters and fishermen have provided important contributions to the mapping of earthquakes and thus contributed to a better understanding of the risk of landslides and earthquakes in and around Disko Bay.

Monitoring Svalbard’s environment and cultural heritage by expedition cruises. Climate change and increasing human activities in the Arctic call for rapid environmental management responses based on monitoring of environmental variables. Expedition cruises are able to travel around the Svalbard waters like nobody else. Guides and guests are already observing and contributing to citizen science programs. Increasing relevant monitoring and creating improved ways of communicating monitoring information could ensure that those responsible for environmental management decisions (the Governor’s Office) are provided with a better basis for making those decisions. In a 3rd policy brief, we summarize the potential that expedition cruises have for contributing to environmental monitoring, and what can be done by authorities and citizen science programs to make full use of this potential. The policy brief recommends that: 1) Cruise expedition vessels are equipped with tablets containing apps for citizen science programs to enable easy uploading of records. The selected programs should be popular among users, gather information that can improve the basis for environmental management, and present results in a form that can be used by environmental management planners and decision-makers; 2) Work must be done to understand how the right type of data can be gathered and be made available to those responsible for environmental management. For Svalbard, this will be institutions such as the Governor’s Office, but also researchers and the public; 3) Clear lines of communication should be further developed between contributors, citizen science programs, the scientific community and decision-makers. A well-funded intermediate organization should facilitate this communication; 4) Further development of expedition cruise monitoring is a high priority, especially so in Svalbard, South East Alaska and the Antarctic.

Natural disasters in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Longyearbyen has been exposed to several natural hazard events in recent years, such as the catastrophic avalanches in 2015 and 2017 and debris flows in 2016. Svalbard is also exposed to earthquakes, for example there has been high earthquake activity in Storfjorden since the large magnitude 6 earthquake in 2008. It is expected that there will be more frequent and more powerful natural hazard events in the Arctic with climate change. In the 4th policy brief, we have summarized what we know about natural hazards in Longyearbyen today. In addition, we propose what can be done to better understand such incidents, and what can be done by authorities and contractors to adapt new buildings and roads to these conditions. In collaboration with local actors, we have installed seismological sensors in Longyearbyen. This experiment has given us useful new knowledge. Longyearbyen is an area with permafrost, and most buildings are founded with wooden piles to avoid settlement damage. We therefore only found opportunities to install the instruments in buildings that were founded on wooden poles, which meant that the noise level in the data was high. It is of great importance for urban planning in Longyearbyen to know how great the risk is for natural hazards, and how the risk will be affected by climate change. To reduce the effects of natural hazards, it is recommended that: 1) The local council in Longyearbyen ensures that critical infrastructure is built outside the runout areas of potential landslide events and adequately designed for earthquake loads. In addition, the consequences of major natural disasters should be studied, and action plans should be developed. 2) Contractors should ensure that current building regulations are followed. Buildings should be placed outside potential runout areas of landslides and they should be adequately designed for earthquake loads. Only through such measures will it be possible to limit the consequences of future natural hazard events and secure residents and visitors in Longyearbyen. In order to improve the data base, work should continue on mapping the risk of landslides and floods. Further research on the potential of combining different data types (eg. seismological, satellite and geodetic data) could provide an improved data base and thus better risk analyzes. A new experiment with the use of home seismographs should be considered, if suitable locations can be made available.

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