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Linking changes in the Arctic marine ecosystem to the provisioning of ecosystem services and Inuit wellbeing

Project Summary

The Arctic is changing rapidly due to the sweeping effects of climate change. These pressures, such as warmer temperatures and sea ice decline, transform the Arctic marine ecosystem and could lead to major shifts in its functioning. Such upheavals alter ecological processes like primary production and trophic interactions, which are responsible for the supply of ecosystem services, defined as the benefits people obtain from nature. In turn, ecosystem services maintain human wellbeing and socio-economic systems in all communities, including, and perhaps especially, indigenous ones. Previous work in Arctic science has tended to focus on either the ecological or the social consequences of these changes. However, understanding and mitigating the wide-ranging impacts of climatic pressures requires interdisciplinary studies that explicitly link changes in the Arctic marine biome to the effects felt by its people.This research consists of a case study on the connections between ecological processes, ecosystem services and human wellbeing in the community of Cambridge Bay, or Ekaluktutiak, an Inuit hamlet of Nunavut where scientific and social studies on the marine environment have been pointed out as lacking. The residents of Cambridge Bay strongly rely on the services supplied by the marine ecosystem. The Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) fisheries undoubtedly constitute the most important service that highly contributes to the economic, cultural and social spheres of Inuit life. Indeed, the fisheries of Arctic char provide locals with clear benefits, such as high quality food and revenues. In light of the major changes that the Arctic marine ecosystem undergoes, this community’s adaptation calls for more integrated studies.  We aim to do such comprehensive assessment (1) to assess the importance of the services provided by the marine ecosystem to the community; (2) to determine how environmental conditions influence the provisioning of Arctic char fisheries; (3) to evaluate how climate-induced changes will alter the socio-ecological relationship between the community and the marine ecosystem. This study will combine diverse but complementary methods to study the Arctic marine ecosystem and itsinterconnectedness with Inuit communities in the context of a changing Arctic.


Study Site Locations:

Cambridge Bay (Ekaluktutiak)


Local Collaborations:

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in Cambridge Bay

Potential: Kitikmeot Heritage Society, Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization (EHTO).


Project Contact:

Marianne Falardeau

PhD Candidate at McGill University

Phone: 514-688-8224