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Forecasting Environmental Resilience in Arctic Landscapes (FERAL)

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FERAL represents the first integrated social-hydrological modeling and simulation tool that can be used to assess the use and perceptions of water in the Arctic. The tool integrates multiple modeling methods to allow users to address social and social-hydrological dynamics. Modeling approaches integrated can include system-dynamics, finite element, stochastic modeling (e.g., Markov Chains), and agent-based modeling (Figure 1). Models are made to interact, with the actions of one model affecting the actions of other models. Models govern the behaviors of social and natural components addressed in a FERAL scenario. In summary, such interactions promote feedbacks that together form a complex system of interacting social and natural components.
Currently, we have modeled communities in Seward Peninsula using FERAL. In these scenarios, we have used collected social data along with hydrographic data to reconstruct the landscape setting and assess how current water use trends may influence communities in Seward Peninsula. One community addressed in modeling scenarios is White Mountain (Figure 2). Simulation results from FERAL indicate future abandonment of traditional water sources (Figure 3) as well as increases in water consumed (Figure 4). Results also suggest that water users in White Mountain will increasingly depend on municipal water sources (Figure 5), which will likely result in greater technological-induced environmental distancing. This phenomenon occurs when water users are less sensitive to water consumption because they become less aware of the source and availability of water. Because users become less sensitive to water availability and change, they become more likely to misperceive changes to the environmental system as they occur (Figure 6). What these results allow us to do is assess how spatial and temporal factors will influence water use evolution in White Mountain based on current understanding. The results allow us to determine possible water vulnerabilities in the coming future, particularly if intensive water use increases through the construction of mines and other activities. Such vulnerabilities can be enhanced as environmental change, caused by human and natural processes, becomes more acute in Seward Peninsula.

For future scenarios, we are beginning to assess how intensive water use by mines can possibly influence community access to potable water and if current water management practices are sufficient to sustain land use and community water needs. In addition to scenarios addressing land use and social change, we are examining how community decision-making is made. In these scenarios, we are attempting to assess how social structures promote community resilience to water availability and quality, and how such structures differ from one community or another. Are there underlying social dynamics and relationships that enhance or negatively influence decision making affecting community resilience? Such questions will be investigated in the near future.