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Global Environmental Change Group



Community Adaptation and Vulnerability in Arctic Regions


CAVIAR is an international research consortium consisting of partners from the eight Arctic nations. The main goal of CAVIAR is to identify how projected changes in climate interact with changes in social and natural conditions, and how such interactions shape vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Arctic Regions. Comparable case studies across Arctic communities will provide a basis for synthesizing knowledge of vulnerabilities and for exchanging experiences with adaptation.

The Arctic is experiencing rapid changes in environmental, societal and economic conditions. The particular conditions to which communities are sensitive are not well documented, nor have the conditions that might facilitate or constrain the adaptive capacity in the face of interacting climate and socioeconomic changes been substantiated. Insights into the particular vulnerabilities of Arctic communities have not been compared across the Arctic countries. Nor are these studies well connected to policy development. With CAVIAR we will gain a deeper understanding of the particular socioeconomic, climatic and environmental conditions to which Arctic communities are sensitive – in the context of multiple stressors.

CAVIAR partners conduct place-based field research, in close cooperation with local communities. The project emphasizes the importance of bringing the local voices into understanding vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Northern communities. This bottom-up perspective ensures local policy relevance. Integrating local and indigenous knowledge with scientific knowledge is vital in order to understand how Arctic peoples can better deal with changing conditions. 


The research will be undertaken in local and indigenous communities in all eight Arctic countries: Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the USA. The case study sites have already been selected - see map. A cross-site comparison of the various sites is expected to provide vital knowledge on the social factors are most significant in shaping vulnerability, and in meeting adaptation needs. The application of a common theoretical framework and methodology allow for integrating the results. Such integration will provide critical and generalizable knowledge of vulnerability and adaptation to climate and other changes in the eight Arctic countries.

Smit, B., G. Hovelsrud and J. Wandel. 2008. CAVIAR: Community Adaptation and Vulnerability in Arctic Regions; University of Guelph, Department of Geography, Occasional Paper No. 28.   [pdf]