Cross-scale risk perception: differences between tribal leaders and resource managers in Arctic Alaska

Berill Blair*, G.P. Kofinas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Communities of Alaska’s North Slope are affected by concurrent, rapid changes due to climate change and industrial activities. Because these impacts are expected to shape community planning agendas into the foreseeable future, increased attention has been paid to decision-making processes that support adaptation. The planning and development decisions that shape adaptation outcomes in North Slope communities take place within complex institutional and policy processes. At the same time, the resilience of rural Alaska communities is closely tied to the extent their interests and local-level priorities are reflected in national- and regional-level decisions on resources that support local livelihoods. For this reason it is important to survey which adaptive responses are of high priority and what are the risks to adaptation at the community level. Given the nested nature of institutions in the region, comparing perceptions across scales can provide insight into potential areas of agreement and difference. To assess these differences, we surveyed North Slope Iñupiat tribal leaders and Alaska State and U.S. federal resource management professionals about perceived risks to North Slope community sustainability. Results showed shared areas of understanding about the extent of impacts from certain changes. However, there were marked differences in risk priorities, in the evaluations of local capacity to treat risks, and community resilience. Our findings suggest that although there are effective channels of communication to exchange observations and understandings regarding land use and cover changes, the views on risk and resilience held by key actors correlate with their role in and proximity to the social-ecological system under examination. By evaluating scale-specific risk priorities and the resources already in place to respond to change, decision makers can better leverage existing resources and adaptive capacities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages18
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • adaptation
  • Arctic
  • community development
  • institutional fit
  • risk perception
  • sustainability


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