Impacts of cryosphere-hydrosphere change on ecosystems and livelihoods in northern Nunatsiavut, Canada (IMAGINE)

Climate change impacts on indigenous and first nations peoples in Inuit Nunangat are multi-faceted, complex, and often poorly understood. One of the most direct effects of climate warming is changes in the nature, extent, seasonality, and character of the cryosphere (all the frozen forms throughout Inuit Nunangat). This can have devastating direct and indirect effects on Inuit peoples, and profoundly changes the landscape.

Many Inuit peoples in Inuit Nunangat rely heavily on the land and its wildlife, fish, and game for their cultural practices, cultural heritage, and socio-economic subsistence. The Torngat Mountains National Park (northern Nunatsiavut and Nunavik land claims) is a keystone location in the cultural landscape of Nunatsiavut and Nunavik Inuit (Nunatsiavummiut and Nunavimmiut). The Park is packed with ancient tales, spirits, and religious beliefs and has been part of the lives of Nunatsiavummiut and Nunavimmiut and their ancestors for many generations. Nunatsiavummiut and Nunavimmiut regularly travel to and within the park for hunting, fishing, and foraging practices, including the collection of wild berries, harvesting of Arctic Char, ptarmigan, and caribou. These activities provide both an economic benefit by sale, barter, trade and tourism, a subsistence benefit for households and communities, and provide a link to ancestral cultural practices. However, each of the ecosystems on which Nunatsiavummiut and Nunavimmiut depend are profoundly influenced by the landscape, weather, and water. The perennial and seasonal cryosphere – in the form of glaciers, snow, permafrost – are the most important controls on meltwater and animal habitats. Shrinking glaciers and snow cover are altering animal habitats leading to reduction in numbers of Arctic Char, ptarmigan, and caribou. The extent to which this is happening, and where, is highly uncertain. Our project will provide the scientific evidence base to quantify these changes and provide plans and strategies for Nunatsiavummiut and Nunavimmiut to manage future change. We will undertake an ambitious program of research, entirely co-created with Inuit investigators and partners, to understand changes in the ice, water, ecosystems, and animal habitats in the Torngat Mountains National Park. Our research has Inuit training and capacity building embedded throughout and will provide a legacy of skills and low-cost survey equipment to continue the observational capacity and inspire Inuit youth participants well beyond the duration of the project. All this information and knowledge will combine with scientific descriptions of Nunatsiavummiut and Nunavimmiut peoples and cultures (customs, habits, preferences) in a truly interdisciplinary project. We will assess existing ideas and plans for change and synthesise all our scientific and ethnographic understanding into climate change adaptation strategies that are locally rooted, evidence based and socially acceptable. Our project will quantify the impacts of climate change on the landscape and animal habitats that matter most to Nunatsiavummiut and Nunavimmiut, and work together to build resilience to future change.

Grant reference
Natural Environment Research Council
Total awarded
£546,202 GBP
Start date
5 May 2022
2 years 11 months 30 days
End date
4 May 2025