UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS

Coastal  Community Resilience

“We’re noticing coastal erosion, we’re noticing changes in wildlife distribution, changes to our fisheries, changes to the weather, it’s getting oftentimes warmer, a lot less snow in some years. So, we are noticing the effects of climate change.” – Verner Wilson III, Dillingham, Alaska

“Alaska is ground zero for climate change. Retreating sea ice and glaciers and thawing permafrost are not partisan issues—they are social, environmental and economic ones.” – Gov. Bill Walker, State of Alaska

Temperatures in Alaska and the Arctic are rising twice as fast as anywhere on earth

The average temperature in Alaska has increased by 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past six decades. As the climate changes, Alaska communities are struggling to adapt. Alaska, which accounts for nearly 20 percent of the area of the United States, is the nation’s only Arctic state.

Many residents of Alaska, a geographically and culturally diverse state, are experiencing thawing permafrost, changes in sea ice and ocean conditions, coastal erosion, ocean acidification, invasive species and other effects.

Climate change is altering traditional activities such as subsistence hunting and fishing, as well as wildlife and marine mammal movements, salmon runs and fish populations, which impacts food security in rural Alaska.

Climate change issues are complex and varied

Alaska Sea Grant works directly with communities to help Alaskans adapt and build resilience to changing climate and ecosystems. Some resources include:

  • Videos — see our YouTube channel
  • Climate change and Fisheries, which summarizes knowledge of North Pacific climate change and its anticipated effects on Alaska fisheries through the mid-21st century.
  • The Adapt Alaska online community

Supporting resilience and strong economies in communities along Alaska’s vast coastline is one of Alaska Sea Grant’s core missions. To address this need, Alaska Sea Grant is funding research in Port Heiden to measure the effects of climate change and help residents adapt.

A Collaborative Approach for Climate Change Adaptation & Coastal Resilience — In Alaska, changes in snow, ice, and weather, have resulted in risks to human lives, infrastructure damage, threats to valuable natural resources, and disruption of hunting, fishing, and livelihoods. In 2016, leaders from all over Alaska came together for a series of Coastal Resilience and Adaptation Workshops, spearheaded by Alaska's Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, and Alaska Sea Grant. Tribal leaders, resource managers, community planners, and scientists explored strategies to adapt to these unprecedented changes, and formed the Adapt Alaska Coalition to continue working together.

Adapt Alaska

Developed by Alaska Sea Grant and partners, Adapt Alaska creates a discussion space for Alaska communities, tribes, agencies and nonprofits. The goal is to allow residents to share information and learn from one another about what they are experiencing and how they can adapt to the changing landscape, ocean conditions and climate across Alaska.

The website provides a constantly updated synthesis of ongoing environmental change in Alaska. It provides a toolbox of monitoring, mitigation and adaptation solutions, and is a portal to useful Alaska-specific web resources. Most important, it provides a platform for communities to share their successes, challenges and lessons learned.

Future work

Adapt Alaska is in its early stages in 2018. In the future we plan to host data and provide an adaptation tool for communities so they can plan their own climate-related strategies. Adapt Alaska is the outcome of coastal community resilience workshops and outreach efforts, where 300 decision-makers from 52 tribes and 16 state and federal agencies identified issues facing communities and the information needs for action.

More coastal resilience workshops are being planned under the umbrella of Adapt Alaska. We will continue to build the website with stories and ideas from Alaskans.

Meet Adapt Alaska in the video below.