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Climate change perceptions among Swedish Sami reindeer herders

Research project The overall conclusion of this study is that the reindeer herders are facing the limit of resilience in the face of climate change.

We wanted to investigate what people in Sweden have seen in terms of climate change and asked reindeer herders about there perceptions and experiences. Reindeer herders work outside all year around and they are completely dependent on nature for their livelihood and are therefor presumably the most knowledgeable people to interview about these issues. The overall conclusion of this study is that the reindeer herders are facing the limit of resilience in the face of climate change. If Sweden wants the traditional reindeer herding trade to last, this need to be considered when authorities decide upon climate change adaptation strategies.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2009-09-01 2011-10-31

Funding

Finansår , 2009

huvudman: Birgitta Evengård, finansiar: Västerbottens läns landsting, y2009: 780,

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Clinical Microbiology

Research subject

Public health and health care science

Project description

We wanted to investigate what people in Sweden have seen in terms of climate change and decided to ask reindeer herders about there perceptions and experiences. Reindeer herders work outside all year around and they are completely dependent on nature for their livelihood and are therefor presumably the most knowledgeable people to interview about these issues.

The first author interviewed 14 reindeer herders and qualitative content analysis was performed on the interviews. The results include a sense of seasonal shifts and changed characteristics of seasons with long, wet autumns; warmer winters; shorter snow season; fewer cold spells; and early and abrupt spring. The interviewees perceived an increase in weather variability and intensity as well as changes and increases in vegetation, with a resulting sense of not recognizing themselves anymore. The pressure on reindeer herding is increasing all the time with diminishing grazing lands and increasing competition from other trades and industries and traditional reindeer herding is becoming more and more difficult. The reindeer herders worry about the future of the trade, even more in the light of climate change and there is a sense of grief for the future in the data. Climate change is just another stressor for reindeer herders but perhaps the ultimate one, though the interviewees claim that they can handle climate change effects provided they have the means to do so.

The overall conclusion of this study is that the reindeer herders are facing the limit of resilience in the face of climate change. If Sweden wants the traditional reindeer herding trade to last, this need to be considered when authorities decide upon climate change adaptation strategies.