Linking subsistence harvest diversity and productivity to adaptive capacity in an Alaskan food sharing network

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Feb 08, 2021
Author: 
Shane A. Scaggs, Drew Gerkey, and Katherine R. McLaughlin

 

Abstract

Background – Although anthropogenic climate change poses existential challenges for Indigenous communities in the Arctic, these challenges are not entirely unprecedented. Over many generations, Arctic peoples have developed a wide range of behavioral strategies to navigate environmental change and uncertainty, and these strategies provide a foundation for contemporary adaptation.

Aims – In this article, we focus on mixed cash‐subsistence economies and the social networks that underlie them in Alaska. The patterns of food production, labor exchange, and food sharing in subsistence‐oriented communities throughout Alaska are driven by the productivity of keystone households who regularly harvest and share resources within and between communities.

Materials & Methods – Building on previous research suggesting the critical importance of these networks to community resilience, we use network analysis to investigate whether patterns in resource transfers between households are associated with subsistence harvest diversity—the diversity of species harvested by a household unit. We use exponential random graph models to describe the structure of a sharing network from Aniak, Alaska, and model the links between harvest productivity, harvest diversity, and household position in this network.

Results – Our results indicate that both productivity and diversity are positively associated with network connections, and that productivity alone provides an incomplete model of network structure.

Discussion – We suggest that subsistence harvest diversity may play a unique role in supporting adaptive capacity and resilience by maintaining the productivity of keystone households despite changing environments and sustaining social network structures that circulate resources throughout the community. Harvest diversity may also serve as a broad indicator of Indigenous ecological knowledge and a tangible representation of cultural practices, values, and worldviews that underlie subsistence in Alaska.

Conclusion – Greater attention to harvest diversity is important for understanding how subsistence networks adapt to environmental change and uncertainty linked to social and ecological dynamics of anthropogenic climate change.

Read the full article in American Journal of Human Biology.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
DOI for citing: 
https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.23573
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