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Tinande permafrost i Abisko

Image: Sylvain Monteux


Research project Health in the Arctic

Permafrost underlies 22% of the Northern Hemisphere's exposed land surface and is thawing at an alarming rate as a direct consequence of climate change. Permafrost thaw releases large quantities of organic matter and contaminants into the environment. Contaminants, including heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants and microbiological agents locked in permafrost, are a risk for both human and animal health. This project will address the social, physical and health components of permafrost thaw in a holistic approach.

Head of project

Matthias Siewert
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

Start date: 2024-01-01


 EU Horizon Europe

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Ecology and Environmental Science

Project description

The social, physical and health components of permafrost thaw have
traditionally been studied in isolation, leading to inadequate policy options that ignore the holistic nature of the threat. There is a need for an integrated and participatory approach to the complex issues at the overlap between climate change, permafrost thaw, infrastructure damage, contaminants, health and well-being and for solutions founded on the cultural, natural and social frameworks of local communities.

ILLUQ is an interdisciplinary project rooted in participatory research with local stake- and rights-holders. Its mission is to tackle this need by providing the first holistic approach to permafrost thaw, pollution, One Health and well-being in the Arctic and delivering timely products on the risks from contaminant release, infrastructure failure and ecosystem changes to stakeholders.

ILLUQ’s endeavor is a direct answer to the pressing needs of communities on potentially disappearing permafrost. It targets the missing link between studies performed by scientists, engineers and consultants in local communities and solutions with local stake- and rights-holders focusing on the long-term implications of decision-making in the context of permafrost thaw, a time frame generally overlooked in existing governance frameworks.

Umeå Universities participating role in this EU project with 15 partners will be to investigate the impact of thawing permafrost on plants and animals.

Latest update: 2024-04-08