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Award Abstract #1262825

Collaborative Research: Sustainability of critical areas for eiders and subsistence hunters in an industrializing nearshore zone

Division Of Polar Programs
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Initial Amendment Date: September 2, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: September 2, 2013
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Award Number: 1262825
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Neil R. Swanberg
PLR Division Of Polar Programs
GEO Directorate For Geosciences
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Start Date: September 1, 2013
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End Date: August 31, 2017 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $249,066.00
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Investigator(s): Tuula Hollmen tuulah@alaskasealife.org (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Alaska SeaLife Center
P.O. Box 1329
Seward, AK 99664-1329 (907)224-6343
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NSF Program(s): ArcSEES
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Program Reference Code(s): 1079, 8560, 8060
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Program Element Code(s): 8109


Throughout the Arctic, indigenous people are faced with difficult choices between the cash benefits of industrialization versus potential degradation of subsistence hunting. Subsistence hunting often provides a large fraction of foods, and may be more reliable in the long term than a cash economy based on nonrenewable resources. Subsistence hunting for certain species may also have cultural significance that far exceeds their dietary contribution. On the Chukchi Sea coast, pipelines connecting offshore oil wells to onshore terminals must be built across a nearshore corridor used by most marine birds and mammals that migrate to the western North American Arctic. These animals are hunted for subsistence by local Natives. During spring, these animals travel through a zone of open water that forms between landfast ice and moving pack ice. If an oil pipeline were ruptured by spring ice scour in this shallow zone, oil could probably not be removed from open water within broken ice during migration. Such an event could not only restrict the extent of viable habitat, but also eliminate local hunting areas. Thus, key habitats that are usually accessible to hunting should be avoided in pipeline placement. In this research, we will model habitat requirements and map viable prey densities for a formerly hunted but now threatened species (Spectacled Eider, SPEI) and a commonly hunted species (King Eider, KIEI) in the Chukchi nearshore zone, and determine long-term variability in the eiders? access to those areas through the ice. We will refine these maps with traditional ecological knowledge on conditions and areas where hunting for KIEI typically occurs. We will then estimate probabilities that different eider feeding areas that are accessible through the ice and conducive to hunting would be eliminated during migration by oil spills from pipelines built along four alternative routes. We will use this information to inform structured decision-making workshops we will hold in the Native community. These workshops will help create a local vision for sustainability, in terms of potential risks of different pipeline routes to subsistence and cultural values of eiders, relative to cash benefits of local construction projects.

Local villagers will be involved in creating and shaping the data set, and will be the main participants in structured decision-making workshops. We will integrate our work with outreach and education programs conducted in these villages by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Our project will yield important information for future evaluations and decision-making by Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Management Offices. Our modern scientific and traditional ecological data, and facilitation of community consensus-building, will expedite later impact assessments by BOEM and other agencies as oilfield development proceeds. On a hemispheric scale, the approach we develop will serve as a prototype applicable to the many such situations developing across the Arctic.


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