Key Message: Forests, Fires, and Food
Observed and future impacts from climate change threaten Native Peoples’ access to traditional foods such as fish, game, and wild and cultivated crops, which have provided sustenance as well as cultural, economic, medicinal, and community health for generations.
Process for Developing Key Messages:
A central component of the assessment process was participation by members of the Chapter Author Team in a number of climate change meetings attended by indigenous peoples and other interested parties, focusing on issues relevant to tribal and indigenous peoples. These meetings included:
Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Meeting on Climate Variability and Change held on December 12, 2011, at the National Weather Center, Norman, OK, attended by 73 people.15
Indigenous Knowledge and Education (IKE) Hui Climate Change and Indigenous Cultures forum held in January 2012 in Hawai‘i and attended by 36 people.16
Alaska Forum on the Environment held from February 6-10, 2012, at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, and attended by about 1400 people with approximately 30 to 60 people per session.17
Stories of Change: Coastal Louisiana Tribal Communities’ Experiences of a Transforming Environment, a workshop held from January 22-27, 2012, in Pointe-au-Chien, Louisiana, and attended by 47 people.12
American Indian Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group 2012 Spring Meeting held from April 23–24, 2012, at the Desert Diamond Hotel-Casino in Tucson, Arizona, and attended by 80 people.18
First Stewards Symposium. First Stewards: Coastal Peoples Address Climate Change. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC. July 17-20, 2012.19
In developing key messages, the Chapter Author Team engaged in multiple technical discussions via teleconferences from August 2011 to March 2012 as they reviewed more than 200 technical inputs provided by the public, as well as other published literature and professional judgment. Subsequently, the Chapter Author Team teleconferenced weekly between March and July 2012 for expert deliberations of draft key messages by the authors. Each key message was defended by the entire author team before being selected for inclusion in the chapter report. These discussions were supported by targeted consultation with additional experts by the lead author of each message.
Description of evidence base
The key message and supporting chapter text summarize extensive evidence documented in more than 200 technical input reports on a wide range of topics that were received and reviewed as part of the Federal Register Notice solicitation for public input.
Numerous peer-reviewed publications describe loss of biodiversity, impacts on culturally important native plants and animals, increases in invasive species, bark beetle damage to forests, and increased risk of forest fires that have been observed across the United States.1,2,3,4,5,6
Climate drivers associated with this key message are also discussed in Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate.
There are also many relevant and recent peer-reviewed publications7,8,1,9,5,6,10 describing the northward migration of the boreal forest and changes in the distribution and density of wildlife species that have been observed.
Observed impacts on plant and animal species important to traditional foods, ceremonies, medicinal, cultural and economic well-being, including species loss and shifts in species range, are well-documented.7,8,1,11,2,3,12,13,14,5
New information and remaining uncertainties
A key uncertainty is how indigenous people will adapt to climate change, given their reliance on local, wild foods and the isolated nature of some communities, coupled with their varied preparedness and limited ability to deal with wildfires. Increased wildfire occurrences may affect tribal homes, safety, economy, culturally important species, medicinal plants, traditional foods, and cultural sites.
There is uncertainty as to the extent that climate change will affect Native American and Alaska Natives’ access to traditional foods such as salmon, shellfish, crops, and marine mammals, which have provided sustenance as well as cultural, economic, medicinal, and community health for countless generations.
Assessment of confidence based on evidence
Based on the evidence and remaining uncertainties, confidence is very high that observed and future impacts from climate change, such as increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, higher temperatures, changes in sea ice, and ecosystem changes, such as forest loss and habitat damage, are threatening Native American and Alaska Natives’ access to traditional foods such as salmon, shellfish, crops, and marine mammals, which have provided sustenance as well as cultural, economic, medicinal, and community health for countless generations.
Strong evidence (established theory, multiple sources, consistent results, well documented and accepted methods, etc.), high consensus
Moderate evidence (several sources, some consistency, methods vary and/or documentation limited, etc.), medium consensus
Suggestive evidence (a few sources, limited consistency, models incomplete, methods emerging, etc.), competing schools of thought
Inconclusive evidence (limited sources, extrapolations, inconsistent findings, poor documentation and/or methods not tested, etc.), disagreement or lack of opinions among experts