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IPY EALÁT Research

Reindeer Herding, Traditional Knowledge, & Adaptation to Climate Change & Loss of Grazing Land by International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry

EALÁT is a Reindeer Herders Vulnerability Network Study and is a project that examines reindeer pastoralism in the light of climate change. On the EALÁT site you will find background information about the project, presentations by Ealát researchers, details of the various work packages, lots of news related to the project, a wide variety of photo galleries, web video pages and more. Ealát is Sámi word with a multi layered meaning. Ealát signifies ‘Pasture’, but related words Eallu means ‘Herd’ while Eallin means ‘Life’ in the Sámi language. The primary research institution in EALÁT is the Sámi University College-Nordic Sámi Institute (SUC-NSI). A wide number of other research institutions are involved in the project, along with the Association of World Reindeer Herders(WRH) and the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry. All these bodies are located in the heart of the Sámi region, Guovdageaidnu-Kautokeino, Norway.

EALÁT focuses on the adaptive capacity of reindeer pastoralism to climate variability and change and, in particular, on the integration of reindeer herders’ knowledge in the study and analysis of their ability to adapt to environmental variability and change. The Ealát project is Project Number 399 in the International Polar Year Scheme.

Reindeer pastoralism, ancient in origin in all its forms, represents models in the sustainable exploitation and management of northern terrestrial ecosystems that is based on generations of experience accumulated, conserved, developed and adapted to the climatic and political/economic systems of the north. Reindeer herders’ traditional knowledge needs to be documented now before much of their understanding is lost owing to the societal/cultural transformations associated with globalisation.

Reindeer have major cultural and economic significance for indigenous peoples of the North. The human-ecological systems in the North, like reindeer pastoralism, are sensitive to change, perhaps more than in virtually any other region of the globe, due in part to the variability of the Arctic climate and the characteristic ways of life of indigenous Arctic peoples. High sensitivity not withstanding, little is known about the vulnerability of such systems to change. Understanding and measuring vulnerability requires assessment of systems’ ability to adapt to impact and the extent to which freedom to adapt is constrained. The EALÁT-Network study will therefore also examine the current state and changes of the polar environment (IPY theme 1 and 2). It will explore (i) the influence of climate variability and change on reindeer, reindeer pastoralism and herding societies and (ii) the extent to which institutions and governance constrain, or create opportunities in, herders’ ability to cope with and to adapt to the effects of climate change. In addition, because many key institutions, markets, and governance affecting reindeer herders are based outside the Arctic, there are societal polar-global linkages and biogeochemical linkages superimposed upon the climate system (IPY theme 3). The limits of the adaptive capacity of reindeer pastoralism must be defined, documented and explored together with the potential role of herders’ traditional understanding of, and techniques for, reducing their vulnerability for the effects of climate change.

We believe that valuing traditional and scientific knowledge equally and, hence, integrating herders’ experience and competence within the scientific method, will enable us to contribute towards reducing the vulnerability of reindeer husbandry to the effects of climate change. Local effects of warming of the global climate during the next 30 to 50 years are likely to be pronounced over reindeer pastures in the north. The EALÁT-Network study will adopt a multicultural approach in a multidisciplinary field that includes monitoring, research, outreach and communication.

The IPY EALÁT-Network study is an interdisciplinary, intercultural study that will assess the vulnerability of reindeer herding, a coupled human-ecological system, to change in key aspects of the natural and human environments, actively involving reindeer herders, linguists, lawyers, anthropologists, biologists, geographers, economists, philosophers (the ethical dimension) as well as indigenous institutions and organisations, relevant industrial enterprises and management authorities. EALÁT focuses on the adaptive capacity of reindeer pastoralism to climate variability and change and, in particular, on the integration of reindeer herders’ knowledge in the study and analysis of their ability to adapt to environmental variability and change. The Ealát project is Project Number 399 in the International Polar Year Scheme and has been endorsed by the Arctic Council.

This project has reached its completion and final publications, dissertations and realted outputs are now underway. You can review the progress of the project over at the EALÁT website, which is no longer being updated here.

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