Research database

Project information
Global change, extractive industries, tourism, socio-ecological dynamics, accessibility, land use, wildlife, reindeer/caribou, ecosystem services
Project title
RConnected - The impact of extractive industries and tourism on socio-ecological dynamics in the Arctic
Project leader
Vera Helene Hausner, (
Geographical localization of the research project in decimal degrees (max 5 per project, ex. 70,662°N and 23,707°E)


Per Fauchald, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA),


Claire A. Runge; UiT-Arctic University of Norway


Dorothee Ehrich; UiT-Arctic University of Norway


Else Grete Broderstad; Center for Sami Studies, UiT.




International partners (funded by CONNECT). Jennifer Irene Schmidt; University of Alaska, Anchorage; Konstantin Klokov, SPSU


Funding Source


Funding 2018                        


Own financing (UIT): 308,000 NOK


Fram Centre:               500,000 NOK


Funding from NINA   50,000: NOK  


Summary of Results


The rapid melting of sea-ice in the Arctic Ocean could increase the accessibility and change the prospects of resource development and tourism in the most sparsely settled areas in the Arctic. In RConnected we asked: “how does the development of extractive industries and tourism influence socio-ecological dynamics in different regions surrounding the Arctic Ocean”. Our aim was to contrast the socio-ecological dynamics in the more accessible and ice-free areas in the northern periphery of Europe with the more remote areas in Arctic Russia, Alaska and Canada (data from the Belmont funded CONNECT).








  • Arctic change. The past two decades have been a time of change in Arctic industries, but this change has been localized to a few areas. International, domestic and cruise tourism continues to increase across Iceland, Scandinavia, and southern Alaska, and looks to be starting to boom in the Canadian Arctic and Archangelsk, albeit from a very low base. Arctic waters around Iceland, Norway and western Russia are increasingly busy, and the distance sailed by shipping vessels has increased over the past 5 years. Despite attention on melting sea ice other Arctic waters remain relatively free from shipping. With the exception of western Russia where resource extraction continues to increase, the touted boom in mining and oil and gas exploration and development is yet to be realized in the majority of the Arctic. Similarly, fisheries remain stable, and in most Arctic waters fish catches are a small proportion of their peak during the 1950s (Runge et al., forthcoming).


  • Broad-scale transitions have changed subsistence systems in the western Arctic. The status of fish- and wildlife resources largely depend on exogenous drivers such as climate- and previous industrial overharvest. On a broad scale, harvest has declined per capita, but commercialization of fish and wildlife resources, has in some cases created incentives to increase the harvest (Fauchald et al, IJC, 2017).

  • Arctic greening from warming has promoted declines in caribou populations. Thus, a greener Arctic seem to have detrimental effect on caribou populations. This is possibly due to a climate induced vegetation shift to increased cover of non-edible shrubs on the Arctic tundra (Fauchald et al. Sci Adv. 2017).

  • Land development/use: Socioeconomic development is associated with more local land use across the Arctic. This pattern persists despite of large regional differences (Ehrich et al., 2017).

  • Regional differences: Circumpolar regions differ with respect to high population densities, low natural growth rate, and low unemployment (Russia, Norway and Iceland) and regions with high unemployment rate and high natural growth rate (mainly North American regions) (Schmidt et al., 2015).

  • Tourism Fine-scale mapping of tourism from social media data (Flickr) combined with automated image analysis (Google Cloud Vision) indicates that both the intensity and the spatial footprint of tourism on Arctic ecosystems has expanded over the past 15 years. Nature is important to Arctic tourists, with 95% of visitors photographing some aspect of nature. The majority of human-nature interactions occur outside protected areas, and tourists value a wide variety of taxa and ecosystems. (Runge et al., forthcoming)

  • Science: Topic modelling of web of science records (N=20 880) demonstrate that there are large gaps between science focusing on broad-scale transitions and drivers of Arctic change and local case studies of socio-ecological dynamics (Hausner & Rebich et al., forthcoming).

  • Resource governance: The inuit subsistence users in North America generally have a positive attitude to public institutions, with the exception of Churchill where the port and a hydroelectric power plant have caused dissatisfaction with the governing institutions. Organizations that deal with fish and wildlife issues, have no legal enforcement rights, and that were associated with Indigenous peoples were more trusted by the local residents (Schmidt et al., 2018).

  • Wildlife co-management: The increased presence of polar bears in coastal villages have caused dissatisfaction among subsistence users in Nunavut, but these specific attitudes towards polar bears do not affect the support to the wildlife co-management system (Lokken et al., 2018).

  • Land tenure: Norwegian residents generally trust public institutions, but there is generally low trust to the new land tenure arrangement in Norway, the Finnmark Estate. Residents are not dissatisfied with specific policies, but lack of support is related to the perception of the tenure as a Sámi institution (Broderstad et al., in review).

  • Extractive industries: One of the assumptions in the local resource curse theory predicts that extractive industries could erode relationships between locals and public institutions over time. We found that in resource rich regions in Arctic Russia, the resource curse could be counteracted by the social benefits provided by companies or the government. We will include Norway, Canada and Alaska in our analysis before submitting the ms.