The tundra areas in the different arctic countries have are rather similar. Many animals and plants in North America, Russia and Europe belong to the same species or are close relatives. Examples are the circumpolar arctic fox or the dwarf birch, which has several similar subspecies. There are not as many species in the tundra as further south, the vegetation is scarce and all life has to be adapted to the extreme arctic conditions. The Arctic is also the home to several groups of indigenous people who face similar challenges. Their way of life and their traditions are closely related to the fragile arctic environment. They depend to different degrees on local natural resources for food, clothing and cultural life. Traditional use of natural resources includes hunting, fishing, reindeer herding, and collecting berries and mushroom. Such benefits people get from the environment are called ecosystem services. Arctic residents are at the same time citizen of large countries, where the majority of people live a modern life stile connected to marked economy.
The impact people have on the natural environment depends on the way natural resources are managed. Resources can be managed in different ways: rules or laws can for example prohibit hunting in certain places at certain times, money or other goods can be provided to people for culling an undesired species, or people can agree among each other on how to best share good fishing places. How resources are managed and who takes decisions about management can have consequences for how strong the impact of people is on natural resources. It can notably be important to what degree local people such as hunters are involved in taking management decisions. Taking another point of view, the socio-economic conditions (population size, human well being, economic activity, income etc) under which people live can also influence the way they use natural resources. More people will need more resources, but people having a job not related to natural resource use and where they earn money will be less dependent on natural resources. Thus management systems and socio-economic conditions together are important for how people use the tundra and its resources. In the project TUNDRA we want to learn more about how these things are related by comparing the situation in different regions of four Arctic countries with very different political systems: Alaska, Canada, Russia and Norway. Understanding the consequences of different management approaches for the resources which are managed, such as animal populations or pastures is very important to develop bettern management systems.
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