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Local land use associated with socio-economic development in six arctic regions

Ehrich, Dorothee, Thuestad, Alma E., Tømmervik, Hans, Fauchald, Per, Hausner, Vera H.
Ambio 2019 v.48 no.6 pp. 649-660
all-terrain vehicles, case studies, harvesting, herding, income, land use change, reindeer, remote sensing, socioeconomic development, Arctic region
The socioeconomic causes of land use change are complex. They are highly context dependent, but most often studied through case studies. Here, we use a quasi-experimental paired block design to investigate whether better access to wage income leads to more visible land use around 28 settlements in six regions of the circumpolar Arctic. We mapped visible land use on high-resolution satellite images taken both close to the settlements, and in a more remote area of extensive land use, and payed special attention to tracks of off-road vehicles (ORV). Despite considerable differences among regions, there was an overall positive relationship between better access to wage income and land use. Reindeer herding was also associated with more visible use, in particular ORV tracks. These results suggest that access to wage income in the mixed subsistence-cash communities of the Arctic could lead to more local use related to harvesting and reindeer herding.