Perception of change in freshwater in remote resource-dependent Arctic communities

Lilian (Na ia) Alessa, Andrew (Anaru) Kliskey, Paula Williams, C Michael Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


This paper provides empirical evidence to support existing anecdotal studies regarding the mechanisms by which human communities become vulnerable to rapid changes in freshwater resources on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska. We interviewed adults, stratified by age, sex, and extended family, in Inupiat communities on the Seward Peninsula. Using categorical indices as part of a semi-structured interview we elicited a respondent's perception of the availability and quality of freshwater resources in their community as well as their perception of change in the availability and quality of freshwater during the period of their lifetime in that community. Significant relationships were observed between age groups for the perception of change in the availability of the local water source and the perception of change in its quality-older generations perceiving more change than younger age groups. These perceptions of change were examined with respect to recent historic changes in precipitation and temperature on the Seward Peninsula. These findings suggest that individual perceptions are instrumental in determining whether or not change merits response. The findings also provide evidence that oral traditional knowledge systems have shifted from continuous to discontinuous transmission, distancing the users from traditional resources. We discuss the role of collective knowledge, through the transmission of knowledge from elders to subsequent generations, in aiding the development of a community's ability to note and respond to changes in critical natural resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-164
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Environmental change
  • Environmental perception
  • Freshwater
  • Human response
  • Resilience
  • Traditional ecological knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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