News > Arctic Stewardship

Warming twice as fast as the global average, the Arctic is facing immediate challenges that are intensified by resource development and global socio-economic pressures.

Responding to the challenge and opportunity to identify strategies that may also be useful in other parts of the world, researchers propose a stewardship framework for a resilient Arctic to address the dual goals of ecosystem resilience and human well-being.

Terry Chapin and colleagues recently published a paper in Global Environmental Change, that describes a stewardship framework that is structured around three key concepts: 1) action motivated by the dual goals of ecosystem resilience and human well-being, 2) outcomes determined by the interaction of social and ecological processes across scales, and 3) shaping the future as opposed to restoring the past.

The framework proposed by co-author's Terry Chapin, Martin Sommerkorn, Martin Robards, and Kevin Hillmer-Pegram also recognizes the contribution of culturally engrained stewardship involving local norms and institutions that are strongly linked to an ethic of respect for nature. They suggest "the goals of culturally engrained stewardship are the same as those of classical conservation - i.e., to sustain historical animal population levels and associated cultural practices. However, achieving these conservation goals often requires transformational change in institutions and deeper understanding of social-ecological dynamics (stewardship elements 2 & 3)".

The stewardship approach acknowledges the necessity of regulatory frameworks that address entire social-ecological systems (as opposed to regulations targeting individual species or issues), as well as the need for greater coordination of actions through adaptive co-management arrangements. Governance and stewardship at the local level is particularly important but the authors assert there remains a strong need for political leadership at larger national and international levels, combined with on-going monitoring to inform and help shape future changes in the Arctic.

Citation: F. Stuart Chapin III, Martin Sommerkorn, Martin D. Robards, Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, Ecosystem stewardship: A resilience framework for arctic conservation, Global Environmental Change, Volume 34, September 2015, Pages 207-217,

Related Links:
Series of 3 blog posts on climate change and the Arctic by Gail Whiteman

Arctic Council - Arctic Resilience Assessment