Gorokhovich, Y.; Leiserowitz, A., and Dugan, D., 2014. Integrating Coastal Vulnerability and Community-Based Subsistence Resource Mapping in Northwest Alaska.
Subsistence resources are critical for indigenous communities in the Kotzebue Sound region of NW Alaska. Global sea-level rise (SLR) and coastal erosion are likely to create unfavorable and hazardous conditions for coastal and estuarine settlements. It is unclear how SLR and erosion might affect coastal subsistence resources because of highly complex ecological interactions. This study integrates physical, anthropological, and survey data to assess coastal vulnerability and to identify areas of concern for local and regional planning and environmental protection. This study analyzes and integrates historical and projected physical coastal changes within the Kotzebue Sound region with (1) a coastal vulnerability index (CVI); (2) community-based participatory GIS maps of community subsistence resources; and (3) representative surveys of local communities to determine the importance of each type of resource. The results identify Kivalina and Deering as particularly vulnerable coastal locations among four studied villages. While the CVI is high in these locations, low erosion rates will not likely have any negative impact on fish and caribou—two of the most important subsistence resource species for these communities. Because of the higher number of identified subsistence resource species, Deering is more resilient than Kivalina to any potential negative coastal impacts. This methodology can be useful in other coastal areas where subsistence resources play a major part in people's lives.