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Publication Date
8 January 2024

How Earth System Models Can Inform Key Dimensions of Marine Food Security in the Alaskan Arctic



The Arctic is home to several groups of Indigenous Peoples, each with distinct ways of interacting with their environment and ways of life. Arctic, Indigenous Peoples’ food sovereignty is tightly linked with food security. Subsistence harvesting activities provide nutritious and culturally vital foods for Alaska Native households and communities. Climate change is causing rapid and more unpredictable shifts in environmental conditions that impact three of the key aspects of food security, availability, stability, and accessibility. While communities monitor the abundance and health of food webs and environments as part of subsistence harvest practices, anticipating major transformations and changes in these systems is challenging. We explored the potential of Earth System Model output in helping anticipate or project physical or ecosystem changes relevant to Alaska Indigenous peoples’ food security needs. Through examples of model products, that provide measures of accessibility and availability of marine resources, we show that modern models, such as the Energy Exascale Earth System Model presented here, can provide estimates of a broad suite of variables relevant to food security. We investigate how Earth System Model output could contribute to exploring questions related to aspects of Arctic food security such as accessibility and availability and highlight present model shortcomings that, if addressed, would move Earth System Models closer to being a useful tool for understanding environmentally driven changes to the availability and accessibility of harvestable food resources. Our example model-derived food security indicators illustrate how Earth System Model output could be combined with relevant, non-model, information sources; These model products are meant only as a starting point and a tool for engaging community members and to present, in an accessible way, the model’s potential utility, or current lack thereof, to rights holders and stakeholders concerned about food security. We are hopeful that with example products in hand, additional model development efforts will have a higher likelihood of success in achieving an iterative discussion with stakeholders regarding feasible and desired products.

Gibson, Georgina A., Hajo Eicken, Henry P. Huntington, Clara J. Deal, Olivia Lee, Katherine M. Smith, Nicole Jeffery, and Josephine-Mary Sam. 2024. “How Earth System Models Can Inform Key Dimensions Of Marine Food Security In The Alaskan Arctic”. Earth Science, Systems And Society 3. Frontiers Media SA. doi:10.3389/esss.2023.10082.
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