5.9.3. Adaptation Options
Opportunities for adapting to expected changes in high-latitude ecosystems
are limited because these systems will respond most strongly to globally induced
changes in climate rather than to regionally controlled and regulated factors.
The effects of climate and disturbance regime on regional productivity and carbon
balance may be difficult to alter at the local or regional scale. The most important
opportunities for mitigation will be protection of peatlands, yedoma sediments,
and other carbon-rich areas from large-scale hydrological change. It is unlikely
that expected changes in fire or thermokarst regime can be altered except in
areas of high population densities. Adaptation options for forests that occur
in these areas are presented in Section 5.6.
The most important opportunities for adaptation in arctic ecosystems may exist
for culturally important resources such as reindeer, caribou, waterfowl, and
specific plant taxa (see Section 5.4). Careful management
of these resources could minimize climatic impacts on indigenous peoples. Another
adaptation option is diversification. Many high-latitude regions depend strongly
on one or a few resourcessuch as timber, oil, reindeer, or wages from
fighting fires. Economic diversification would reduce the impacts of large changes
in the availability or economic value of particular goods and services.
In alpine regions, major opportunities for adaptation relate to protection
from large-scale changes in land use or pollutant levels. Because these causes
of change are local to regional, wise management could minimize changes.
Goods and services provided by many arctic regions depend on the physical integrity
of permafrost and therefore are vulnerable to warming-induced thermokarst. The
large carbon stocks in these regions are vulnerable to loss to the atmosphere
as CO2 or CH4, which could act as positive feedbacks to
global warming. A few key taxa of animalssuch as reindeer, caribou, and
waterfowlare critical cultural resources. Often these taxa are concentrated
in particular habitats, such as riparian areas or high-Arctic oases. Ecological
changes that modify the population dynamics of these species or modify the impact
on their habitats could have important social consequences.
High levels of endemism in many alpine flora and their inability to migrate
upward mean that these species are most vulnerable. In addition, alpine soils
are vulnerable to losses from erosion, which would radically reduce the goods
and services that these regions could provide.