IAB4: Biodiversity, cultural heritage and land-use planning

Date: Tuesday October 9, 2018

Location: Erottaja, ELY

Time: 13:00-14:30

This session explores how traditional knowledge and/or cultural practices play an important role in achieving conservation objectives and implementing sustainable development goals in the Arctic, including in various protected areas networks.

Chair: Erica Oberndorfer, Labrador Institute Post-doctoral Fellow, CAFF-IASC Fellow

Format: Series of presentations followed by discussion


  • Biodiversity and cultural landscapes: Inuit cultural practices increase small-scale biodiversity and create novel vegetation communities in Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada): Erica Oberndorfer, Labrador Institute Post-doctoral Fellow, CAFF-IASC Fellow pdf
  • Traditional Land Use, Tourism and Conservation of Biodiversity in Arctic Protected Areas in Finland: Pekka Sulkava, Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finlandpdf
  • In the world of snow: ethno-landscape - human - laika sled dog: Tatiana Degai, Council of Itelmens "Tkhsanom" pdf
  • The Tsá Tué International Biosphere Reserve - a case study in Indigenous-led conservation initiatives: David Livingstone, Holarctic Environmental pdf
  • Impacts of reindeer management and forestry on biodiversity of northern forests: Sirpa Rasmus, University of Lapland, Arctic Centre pdf


Biodiversity and cultural landscapes: Inuit cultural practices increase small-scale biodiversity and create novel vegetation communities in Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada)

Erica Oberndorfer, Labrador Institute Post-doctoral Fellow, CAFF-IASC Fellow; Jeremy Lundholm Saint Mary's University, Department of Biology; Todd Broomfield, Inuit Community of Makkovik; Gita Ljubicic, Carleton University

Some of the central vegetation management questions in the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring Plan (2013) focus on understanding vegetation patterns for species and communities (e.g. diversity, abundance, productivity, distribution, composition), and how these patterns are changing. As we take into account the drivers and stressors that underlie biodiversity dynamics in the Arctic, it is critical that we simultaneously consider the cumulative historic and contemporary effects of Indigenous cultural practices on present-day biodiversity patterns. In recognizing the persistent ecological signals of cultural landscapes, western science is only beginning to catch up with the knowledge of Indigenous peoples of the Circumpolar North, such as Nunatsiavummiut (residents of Nunatsiavut; Labrador, Canada), whose Inuit Land Use and Occupancy study is entitled, “Our Footprints are Everywhere”. In this presentation, we discuss how the ecological footprints of cultural practices are visible in the plant communities and soils of fishing places near the Inuit Community of Makkovik (Nunatsiavut). We surveyed vascular plant community composition at 77 built environment patches with Inuit and commercial fishing histories, and visibly undisturbed patches, and measured soil characteristics including depth, nutrients and metals. Habitats with visible built environment legacies have unique plant communities that differ in species composition and abundance as compared to areas without visible structural histories, with a high incidence of calciphiles. Built environment patches support more native species on a per area basis, at least at the small scale. Furthermore, built environment patches with a legacy of Inuit presence have more species overall than patches with commercial fishing legacies. The presence of elevated soil metals in patches presumed to be undisturbed in our study reminds us that vegetation patterns are not always solely sufficient in expressing historical cultural legacies. In keeping with the Arctic Biodiversity Congress goal of facilitating inter-disciplinary discussion, our goal for this presentation is to encourage discussion on the long-term and cumulative cultural practices that underlie current patterns of plant diversity in the Arctic, and to encourage reflection on monitoring reference site assumptions. We also hope to encourage discussion on Arctic Biodiversity Assessment recommendations that seek to safeguard areas for biodiversity (especially Recommendations 5 and 7), by proposing that our efforts must not only include designating lands for protection but actively supporting the Indigenous cultural practices that drive biodiversity.


Traditional Land Use, Tourism and Conservation of Biodiversity in Arctic Protected Areas in Finland

Pekka Sulkava, Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland

In Finland, all 12 Wilderness Areas (WA), largest National Parks (NP) and other wide protected areas (PA) are situated in Northern Finland. Nature reserves are used to preserve the diversity of species and habitat types. They also help to conserve national landscapes, the cultural heritage and recreational and hiking areas. Finland has a special Wilderness Act “Erämaalaki” (1991), aiming to protect natural landscape, preserve indigenous Sámi culture and promote traditional livelihoods. W`s, NPs and PAs cover substantial part of the Northern Finland, about 30 % of the province of Lapland. Most of this protected area is part of the Natura 2000 network, whose purpose is to protect biodiversity. Most PAs and all WAs and NPs in Finland are situated on state land and managed by the state-owned enterprise Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland. In many NPs, PAs and WAs have an important role in traditional land use and local livelihood in arctic Finland. The local communities maintain many rights to pursue traditional nature-based occupations, including in protected areas. They are crucial as pastures for reindeer herding and essential attraction for growing nature tourism. For the management and land use of protected areas, management plans are devised by Metsähallitus. The planning process is participatory: the local stakeholders and the public have the opportunity to influence the plan through meetings, public hearings and map-based internet enquiries. The management and land use plans are ratified by the Ministry of the Environment. In the Sámi area, a special Akwé: Kon planning process has been implemented since 2013, following the guidelines based on the Article 8(j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity. An independent working group has been appointed by the Sámi Parliament to support and evaluate the planning process. So far the experiences have been positive and the guidelines are to be updated in the near future. The Arctic nature in the uppermost part of Europe is extremely vulnerable to climate change. This has already been detected by decline of several arctic species populations and biotopes, e.g. arctic fox Vulpes lagopus, and large defoliation in mountain birch forests caused by winter moth Operophtera brumata. Climate change may also have a significant effect on reindeer husbandry and Sámi culture. Analysis of adaptation and mitigation actions on the scale of the PA network is primary in minimizing the negative effects of climate change.


In the world of snow: ethno-landscape - human - laika sled dog

Tatiana Degai, Council of Itelmens "Tkhsanom"; Victoria Petrasheva, Kamchatka Branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography, RAS, Kamchatka, Russia

Long time ago Kutkh – the Great Raven created Kamchatka land and inhabited river valleys, lake and sea shores with people. Kamchatka sled dogs are unpretentious and rather resilient. These dogs are highly valued for their outstanding strength, exceptional sensitivity and intelligence, unique commitment, ability to self-sacrifice, which they perform, in the extreme situations that occur during travels along boundless tundra. Itelmens are an indigenous group that reside in Kamchatka, North Pacific coast of Russia. Being traditional fishermen and hunters Itelmens developed distinctive ways and means of travelling on the dog sleds. Ethno-social aspect of sustainable development of dynamic balance of ecological economic system: ethno-landscape – Kamchatka sled dog – human is a unique creation of traditional landuse and result of multi century development of severe and difficult to access territories of the North. This research is aimed to study experience of relation and cooperation between humans and Kamchatka sled dog called Kamchatskaya ezdovaya laika. How can this relationship be used in the sufficient development of sustainable living in the Arctic? What new forms of this relationship occur in the 21 century? Why this relationship is still important for Itelmens? These are some of the questions that our study is exploring.


The Tsá Tué International Biosphere Reserve - a case study in Indigenous-led conservation initiatives

David Livingstone, Holarctic Environmental

The Tsá Tué International Biosphere Reserve includes Great Bear Lake and its watershed within the Délı̨nę District of the Sahtu Settlement Region, in the central Northwest Territories of Canada . Covering an area of 9.3 million hectares, Tsá Tué is the largest biosphere reserve in North America and the only biosphere reserve anywhere whose establishment was led by the resident Indigenous people, in this case the Sahtuto’ine of the small community of Délı̨nę. The Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1993), the Great Bear Lake Watershed Management Plan (2006), the Sahtu Land Use Plan (2013) and the Délı̨nę Final Self-Government Agreement (2014) form the basis of Sahtuto’ine efforts to regain sovereignty over their homeland. A large part of this process involves recognition by Sahtuto’ine of their enormous stewardship responsibilities, deeply rooted in the cosmology and spirituality of the Sahtuto’ine. Led by the elders of Délı̨nę with the aid of outside specialists the Sahtuto’ine are developing research and monitoring programs to help safeguard the ecological and cultural integrity of Tsá Tué. The presentation will showcase the critical role Indigenous traditional knowledge and cultural practices can play in achieving conservation objectives and implementing sustainable development goals in the Arctic.


Impacts of reindeer management and forestry on biodiversity of northern forests

Sirpa Rasmus, University of Lapland, Arctic Centre; Minna Turunen University of Lapland, Arctic Centre

The reindeer management area (RMA) covers 36% of the area of Finland and approximately 75% of reindeer graze in the boreal forest zone. There is large variability in the environmental and climatic conditions in different parts of the RMA, as well as in herding practices. Forests are especially important winter pastures of reindeer. Arboreal lichens of the old-growth forests are crucial fodder of reindeer during the periods of deep or icy snow. Reindeer grazing and trampling have several effects on the biodiversity of boreal forests. Reindeer of northern herding districts use also mountain birch forests as pastures, affecting their growth and regeneration. Forestry is considered as one of the most important land uses affecting the diversity of forests and reindeer management. Historical forestry actions have changed the multi-aged forest cover into fragmented patches of rather homogeneous forest stands. Logging and regeneration of the forests have led to the loss or reduction of the amount and availability of lichens for reindeer. Present day forestry practices are developed to maintain biodiversity and to take also other land-users better into account. In this work we aim at answering the following questions: 1) How does reindeer grazing affect the forests and their biodiversity in the RMA of Finland? 2) How do the diversity of forest, and forestry actions affect the reindeer and herding practices? 3) How to reconcile reindeer management and forestry in the same regions to maintain biodiversity of forests and gain benefit for both of the livelihoods? To be able to answer these questions we review the recent scientific literature and combine the findings with historical material carrying practitioners’ knowledge both of the reindeer herders and of the forestry professionals. Understanding various interconnections in the northern forests is important as global change presents new challenges to livelihoods in question. It is expected that the changing climate will promote the forest growth and forestry may expand to new areas. On the other hand, need for diverse pasture areas for reindeer is increasing, as warming increases the risk of icy snow formation. Land use planning and consolidation of livelihoods is concurrently getting more significant. Presentation fits into the Congress goal to increase the visibility of Arctic biodiversity in global settings. It addresses the key ABA elements: the significance of land use (forestry / reindeer management) as an underlying drivers of change in biodiversity and the necessity of taking an ecosystem-based approach to management.

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