Northern Test Case
The Northern test case encompasses both Arctic Alaska, an area of coastal tundra covering the northernmost portion of the state, and Interior Alaska, a region of boreal forest located south of the Arctic. Rural villages of Arctic and Interior Alaska are inhabited mostly by indigenous Iñupiaq and Athabascans, who rely heavily on traditionally subsistence harvests of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine resources. These villages also engage to varying degrees with the cash economy, with some closely tied to oil and mineral extraction income. All of Alaska’s Arctic villages and many Interior ones are inaccessible by road and are dependent on air or river transport for medical and other services and for store-bought food.
The test case is currently focused on the Arctic village of Nuiqsut. Arctic Alaska communities such as Nuiqsut are experiencing the strongest climate signals in the United States, with increases in average surface temperature and fire frequency, thawing permafrost, changes in terrestrial hydrology, reduction of sea ice, increased storm surges, changes in vegetation, shifts in seasonality, and resultant changes in several important ecosystem services. Severe coastal erosion has forced some villages to plan to relocate, while shrinking sea ice raises issues of risk associated with expanded shipping and oil and gas exploration and development. The consequences of hydrological and landscape change have already affected subsistence harvest patterns and heightened safety concerns for traveling for traditional harvests.
Research objectives of the Northern Test Case are to:
- Understand how hydrological, landscape, and land use changes are affecting ecosystem services.
- Understand the consequences of changes on a village cash-subsistence economy.
- Evaluate the capacity of North Slope households and communities to respond to changes
Project data acquired by the Northern Test Case, as well as relevant data compiled from other agencies and organizations, can be accessed at the Northern Test Case data portal, a collaboration with the North Slope Science Initiative.