The Arctic Resilience Interim Report released on 15 May, finds that rapid – even abrupt – changes are occurring on multiple fronts across the Arctic, raising the risk of crossing thresholds that would cause irreversible changes to ecosystems, environmental processes, and societies. The report marks the half-way point in the project that aims to identify critical thresholds and sources of resilience in the face of environmental and social pressures.
The Kiruna Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in mid-May confirmed the importance of understanding resilience in discussing Arctic change, not only in scientific research but also in relation to policy. The Ministerial Declaration clearly connects resilience to the issues of adaptation, which is emerging as an increasingly urgent concern as the impacts of climate change are becoming more and more apparent across the North. Not only is the sea ice melting rapidly, snow cover is also declining and permafrost disappearing, which have impacts on the way water flows in the landscape, on the vegetation and on the animals and people who live there. We are beyond the point where such changes are slow and gradual and always easy to foresee. Instead we have to prepare for more surprises and major shifts in ecosystems in the years to come.
The recently released Arctic Resilience Interim Report 2013 discusses in depth seven important sources of adaptive capacity, which can also be thought of as important aspects of resilience in a rapidly changing world. People living in the region face not only climate change, but also major social, economic and political change. These sources of resilience include access to natural capital, to social capital, and to knowledge. Natural capital is the ecosystems that can continue to provide society with food, clean water, livelihoods based on natural resources, and other ecosystem services that serve as a non-replaceable base for human well-being. Social capital is about our ability to work together, the social networks and our decision-making mechanisms that make it possible to have dialogues, set priorities and implement decisions. Knowledge is about our ability to monitor, analyze and understand the world in which we live, the changes that are happing and how they may affect our future choices. In the Arctic context it includes the scientific work from many different disciplines as well as traditional knowledge. The Arctic Resilience Report is a 4-year Arctic Council project led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.