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Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change

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Climate change is predicted to significantly warm ambient and water temperatures in the Great Lakes wild rice region, increase invasive species, increase decomposition rates which will release phosphorous and toxins from the sediment, and alter the conditions that presently exist. These changes will likely negatively affect wild rice (Zizania spp.) populations, which in turn, will affect the long-held traditions of wild rice harvesting by Tribal communities. The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (LVD) has harvested wild rice for centuries from Lac Vieux Desert and surrounding lakes and rivers. It is a staple of their diet, an important component of their spiritual practices, and is the foundation of the traditional practice of wild rice harvesting. In partnership with the Tribe, we propose an adaptation strategy to ensure that rice beds and ricing culture are preserved for future generations. This strategy entails a coupled ecological and cultural approach to address climate variability and climate change. This approach can be implemented through a collaborative endeavor with the LVD community and key stakeholders, and can buildup resiliency and adaptation capacity through research, ecological assessment, education and training, development of networks, and the documentation of traditional knowledge.
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Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
1
Report submitted to Freshwater Futures, January 2013.
Please do not cite without permission of author
Jubin J. Cheruvelil
1,
Barbara Barton
2
January 2013
© Jubin J. Cheruvelil 2013
1
Instructor, Lyman Briggs College | West Holmes W-26A, History, Philosophy, Sociology of
Science, 919 E. Shaw Lane, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48825-1107
2
Natural Resources Director, Great Lakes Lifeways Institute, 3494 28th St. Hopkins, MI 49328
Title: Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
Abstract
Climate change is predicted to significantly warm ambient and water temperatures in the
Great Lakes wild rice region, increase invasive species, increase decomposition rates which will
release phosphorus and toxins from the sediment, and alter the conditions that presently exist.
These changes will likely negatively affect wild rice (Zizania spp.) populations, which in turn,
will affect the long-held traditions of wild rice harvesting by Tribal communities. The Lac
Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (LVD) has harvested wild rice for centuries from
Lac Vieux Desert and surrounding lakes and rivers. It is a staple of their diet, an important
component of their spiritual practices, and is the foundation of the traditional practice of wild
rice harvesting. In partnership with the Tribe, we propose an adaptation strategy to ensure that
rice beds and ricing culture are preserved for future generations. This strategy entails a coupled
ecological and cultural approach to address climate variability and climate change. This
approach can be implemented through a collaborative endeavor with the LVD community and
key stakeholders, and can buildup resiliency and adaptation capacity through research, ecological
assessment, education and training, development of networks, and the documentation of
traditional knowledge.
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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Introduction
Wild Rice (Zizania spp., ‘Manoomin’ or good berry in the Ojibwe language) is a
culturally important plant to the Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes region and is harvested
and enjoyed throughout the Upper Great Lakes Region by people of varied cultural backgrounds.
It has been a central component of the culture of indigenous people in this region for thousands
of years and continues to be of great importance to the Anishinaabe community and specifically
to the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (LVD). Wild Rice’s spiritual
significance is evidence of the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Anishinaabek migration story;
its cultural significance is the fact it is one of the staple foods of the community and is also used
in ceremonies and feasts. The traditional and social importance comes from the rice camps where
Wild Rice is harvested, processed, and reseeded, and is the time when Elders pass on the
knowledge to the next generation. Wild Rice is also an important component of recent Tribal
programs that encourage a healthy diet and lifestyle. Ecologically, this grain provides the base
of the food chain for Indian Country’s wetland, lake and riparian habitats, especially during the
later summer and autumn. Wild Rice is a key element of Great Lakes coastal and interior
wetlands that provides food, cover, and spawning habitat for a variety of wildlife species.
Proposed Project
Based on ecological and cultural characteristics of Manoomin and at the appropriate scale
to address critical issues, we performed the following; 1) engaged the stakeholders and relevant
public/private agencies in setting clear, measurable goals for the assessment of the health of
Manoomin ecosystems and economies, 2) gathered information about the condition of wild rice
habitat and resources and the local economy that depends on them, 3) used this information to
propose adaptation strategy in light of climate change, and 4) coordinated with the stakeholders
across communities in identifying and implementing strategies to achieve multiple goals. We
employed the following broad outline in our efforts:
Goal 1. Identify potential impacts of climate change on Manoomin habitats
a. review scientific literature
b. interview Traditional Knowledge keepers
Goal 2. Identify how these changes will affect LVD community
a. interview wild ricing community
b. interview Tribal Elders
Goal 3. Identify adaptation needs
a. develop an understanding of Manoomin livelihoods
1. review current management strategies
2. review status of wild ricing tradition within the community
3. develop an understanding of the goals and objectives of the community
4. develop an understanding of climate driven changes and effects on
Manoomin communities
5. assess current Manoomin management strategies and modify as needed
to address climate change threats
Goal 4. Identify and develop partnerships to assist with management strategy and
implementation
a. Build upon existing relationships with US Forest Service, MSU Extension,
Michigan TechnologicalUniversity, Northern Michigan University, Keweenaw
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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Bay Indian Community, Hannahville, Indian Community, Great Lakes Fish
and Wildlife Commission
b. develop new partnerships
Goal 5. Develop a coordinated adaptation-based Manoomin management strategy
a. assess, respond, and mitigate: social, climate, habitat, planting and harvest
conditions
1. create metrics for wild rice distribution, density, harvest
2. annually repeat assessment, modify response and mitigation
Goal 6. Implement adaptation based Manoomin management strategy - requires
flexibility to change with new conditions
a. based on current knowledge of Manoomin, expertise and assessment of social,
economic and ecological implications - build resiliency and adapt to changes
b. ameliorate and reduce existing habitat and plant risk and vulnerability
c. expand capability (i.e. habitat expansion and recovery)
Goal 7. Maintain sustainable wild rice beds in the LVD area
a. create long-term wild rice management plan
b. identify funding needs
c. educate the LVD community on the importance of maintaining wild ricing
tradition, threats related to climate change
This project proposes a strategy for buildup of resilience and creation of adaptation
capacity of Manoomin in LVD. The LVD is a traditional Manoomin harvesting Tribe located in
the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Tribe has been actively involved in restoration
activities and Manoomin education in the form of traditional rice camps. The purpose of this
project is to work with LVD to develop and implement effective strategies to adapt to the effects
of climate change on, and reduce the vulnerability of, Manoomin beds. This will be
accomplished by working collaboratively to identify how climate change may affect wild rice,
developing habitat management recommendations and other strategies with the goal of
maintaining sustainable harvesting opportunities.
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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This project is a collaborative effort between the Great Lakes Lifeways Institute,
Michigan State University, and LVD. The advocacy component for this project is built in
through the inclusion of the Tribe as a partner - by collaboratively working in partnership with
the LVD community throughout project development and implementation, recommendations are
assured to be adopted by the Tribe. Further, the collaboration with the LVD community aims to
incorporate culturally relevant perspective in understanding climate change and their own
adaptation capabilities and help to develop additional measures. In this way, the community
becomes the primary decision maker and an advocate to implement the necessary changes. The
work undertaken is presented as three interconnected pieces that expands our understanding of
wild rice adaptation to climate change: 1) ecology, 2) climate change, and 3) culture.
Ecological Life History of Wild Rice: Wild rice is an annual grass that forms dense beds
important to the biodiversity of the Great Lakes region. It provides food and cover for a variety
of wildlife and fish species, and is an important stop over habitat for migratory waterfowl. It is a
staple of their diet, an important component of their spiritual practices, and is the foundation of
the traditional practice of wild rice harvesting. In order to understand the potential impacts of
climate change on Wild Rice, we present a brief discussion of the life history and habitat
requirements. Wild rice seeds lie in bottom sediments throughout the winter and must go through
Figure 1: Study RegionWatersmeet, Upper Peninsula, MI
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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a three to four month cold dormancy period of temperatures at or below 38° F in order to
germinate. In spring, the submerged plant grows up from the sediments and enters into the
“floating leaf stage”, the period when the plant is most vulnerable. At this stage, the roots are not
yet fully developed and the rice plants are easily dislodged by fluctuating water levels, severe
flood events, or bottom disturbance such as that caused by carp. Wild rice takes on an emergent
form in mid-summer and flowers into August. Seeds form in late August through September and
this is when wild rice harvesting takes place.
Wild rice prefers mucky or silt bottom sediments with waters having low turbidity. In
lakes, flow is important and there is often an inflow and outflow with rice preferring depths of
six inches to four feet. Wild rice grows best in rivers with slow currents and depths of two feet.
Neither river nor lake rice competes well with floating leaved plants or Typha species.
Threats to Wild Rice include changes in hydrology, fluctuating water levels due to
extreme flood events, boat traffic or water control structures, high turbidity, disturbance due to
boat traffic, invasive species (carp, Typha, water milfoil, mute swans), pollution from activities
such as mining, and overgrazing by native species such as Canadian geese and muskrats.
Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Wild Rice Habitats
Ojibwe communities have traditionally respected and protected ricing. Many historic
wild rice beds no longer exist and others are a shadow of their former productivity. Wild rice
lakes and rivers are under threat from a number of factors: lake owners, water level fluctuations
from dammed rivers, motorized boats damaging wild rice roots, invasive plant competition and
displacement, and pollution from mining activities. Wild rice also plays an important role in food
for birds and also aids in processing water quality.
Protection and enhancement efforts are limited (but see GLIFWC) and need to be
expanded beyond the local scope. Wild rice habitats were historically regionally available and
important. Protection and expansion of wild rice and habitats is part in parcel of sound habitat
and watershed management.
Climate change is expected to critically affect wild rice beds in the Great Lakes region.
This project seeks to identify these changes and work in partnership with the LVD to advocate
adaptation measures to ensure the continuity of the ricing tradition by reducing the vulnerability
and building adaptation capacity of wild rice beds to these changes. Adaptation measures require
the understanding of climate change implications for the cultural, economic and ecological
(habitat, plant) relevance of this resource. This information will provide the understanding for
the build up and creation of adaptation measures that will be required for the continuity and
longevity of this important staple.
A review of the scientific literature was conducted to determine how climate change will
affect habitats and growing conditions for wild rice in Michigan. The following table presents
predicted conditions within the next 50 to 100 years by season and includes the life stage of rice.
Climate change data is from the Union of Concerned Scientists, effects on wild rice from Natural
Wild Rice in Minnesota (2008) unless otherwise indicated.
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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Table 1: Ecological Life Cycle
Potential Change
due to Climate
Winter
Dormant Seeds in Sediment
Summer
Emergent/Flowering
Late Summer/Fall
Seeds
Ambient
Temperature
Increase 5°-10° F
Can negatively impact
germination by shrinking
cold dormancy period
Increase 7°-13° F
Hot, dry (drought)
conditions negatively
affect pollination.
Increase and decrease
wetland habitats, Saginaw
Bay and other shallow
bays threatened with
habitat loss due to already
shallow conditions
Hot, dry conditions
reduces seed production
Water Temperature Less ice cover
Increased decomposition,
lower dissolved oxygen
levels, increased release of
contaminants,
phosphorous from
sediments
Increase in carp, hydrilla,
water hyacinth, other
invasives detrimental to
wild rice. Water/sediment
quality unsuitable
Precipitation Increased snowfall
storm events
Severe flooding events,
changes in water levels,
increased
Decreased precipitation
Low water levels, loss of
suitable habitat, loss of
stream flow, less stream
habitat
Decreased precipitation
Low water levels, loss of
suitable habitat, loss of
stream flow, less stream
habitat
Increased Dew Point
Warm humid conditions
increase brown spot fungus
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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(Bipolaris oryzae and B.
sorokiniana), other
pathogens
Can ultimately affect seed
production in fall
Changes in wind,
waves, and extreme
storm events
Unstable sediment may
prevent seed dormancy
Possible removal of
rooted plants
Destruction of rice beds
Variation in weather
among years
Loss of seeds from previous
year
Lack of seeds to
germinate for
subsequent year
Changes in seasons
and phenology
Delayed or no germination
Delayed, early or
nonexistent seeds
Species variation
Invasive outcompete wild
rice
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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Methods
The project team focused their efforts on tasks aimed at assessing the relationship
between wild ricing ecology, climate change and cultural knowledge in the LVD community.
The tasks included background research and interviews of wild ricers at LVD. Two separate trips
were undertaken to present background research, interview community members, and participate
in ricing activities. During the initial interviews, we had a number of participants and responses,
all of whom were members of families who previously or currently harvest rice at LVD. Over
our visit, more reflections and stories were gathered from varied members, both young and old of
the community.
The majority of cultural knowledge was gathered from Tribal Elders and knowledge
keepers of the community through informal interviews and discussion circles (or spirit circles).
Information about their memories and experiences with Manoomin and knowledge of climate
change were elicited. The community members conveyed their recollections of the past, and the
importance of ricing and the annual ricing weekend and the links of Manoomin to the cultural
identity. We also had a few interactions with younger community members. They held
considerable scientific understanding of climate change unlike the elders. Conversely the elders
provided the historical perspective and narrated the heritage of wild ricing and past climate
events. A cursory evaluation of the topics discussed suggests that the different age segments of
LVD held very different knowledge about ricing and climate change.
The elders brought up four key themes; 1) recognition of history and legacy of wild rice,
2) sovereignty and rights (legal) of LVD to pursue ricing, 3) protection of rice habitats (lakes,
wild rice beds), and 4) education of younger community members about climate change and wild
ricing. Other key aspects of the interviews include; 1) ricing is important to their community
identity and connection to the past, 2) community members riced in the past, often away from
Tribal areas. 3) ricing is threatened since revitalization efforts are in their nascent stage, 4) ricing
is threatened due to outside political and economic factors and LVD does not have control or
influence over traditional harvesting activities, and 5) lack of younger practioners and experts
that will carry traditions of their ancestors.
Climate Change & Tribal Communities
Historically, Tribal communities have shown resilience and the ability to survive changes
in resource scarcity, but many may be less well equipped to cope with the impacts of climate
change. LVD has a mixture of formal economies (Tribal services, gaming, fisheries, forestry, and
tourism) and informal economies (e.g., harvesting of natural renewable resources, fishing, and
hunting, plant foods gathering) (GLIFWC 2012). Harvesting of plants and animals contributes
to community cohesion and self-esteem, and knowledge of wildlife and the environment
strengthens social relationships (Warren et al., 1995; Berkes, Kislalioglu et al. 1998). Ricing is
an important harvesting activity of the community.
Ricing faces risks from a number of factors including climate variability and change,
cultural loss of traditional knowledge, lack of legal protections of habitats, and lack of
recognition of sovereign treaty rights. Additionally, this tradition is threatened due to decreasing
number of ricers within the community.
Climate change affects temperate ecosystems of the Upper Peninsula in a number of
ways, depending on the geography with changes in lake levels and snow and rainfall. These
climatic changes results in plant and animal distributions, ranges, phonologies, symbioses and
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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community structures. LVD community depends on seasonal abundances of resources as part of
their informal economy. They rely on predictable rainfall, snowpack to feed lakes, rivers that are
critical habitat for wild rice and other resources.
As climate continues to change, there will be significant impacts on the availability of
key subsistence aquatic and terrestrial species. Changes in population size, structure and
migration are inevitable. This will entail local adjustments in harvest strategies as well as in
allocations of labor and resources (e.g., boats, snowmobiles, weapons). As the climate a change,
community involvement in decision-making has the potential to promote sustainable harvesting
of renewable resources, thereby avoiding deterioration of common property. The management of
resources will require not just a consultative, but a collaborative framework that is wide ranging
and endeavor to integrate the culture and economy of LVD. However, factors that are beyond the
control of the local community may frustrate this ideal. Historically, indigenous communities
show considerable flexibility in coping with climate variability (Sabo, 1991; Odner 1992). Now,
a number of factors (economic, political, land ownership) have reduced their options.
Management Recommendations
Many Tribes, state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and general citizenry
are involved in wild rice restoration in the Great Lakes region. Of great concern to Tribal
communities is how climate change will affect culturally important natural resources. Recently
the College of the Menominee Nation held a Changing Seasons Summit which was attended by
Tribal leaders from all across North America. This project will provide management and
adaptation recommendations which address adaptation to the predicted effects of climate change
to Wild Rice. It can serve as a model for Tribes all across the Great Lakes region. This project
can inform the development of policies and regulations of land use which will be required for the
expansion and buildup of adaptation capabilities at a watershed scale. Our management
recommendations will assist planners and resource managers in making informed, foresighted
decisions to reduce the vulnerability of Wild Rice.
As a result of the limited study with the LVD community and our understanding of the
current situation with regard to Wild Rice and climate change, we recommend a number of
objectives that will need to be met in order for the community to adapt to climate change.
Objectives include efforts to not only sustain but expand the focus on Wild Rice preservation and
protection, and increase education to the broader community about the importance of ricing.
The study team recommends a multi pronged response to build wild rice resilience and
adaptation capacity in the LVD community. Adaptation capacity can be best built by four future
action areas;
Basic and Applied Research
Ecological services
Regulatory protection
Education and outreach
Coalition building and collaborations.
Basic and Applied Research
We recommend a long term research program between LVD, other Tribal communities
and a network of scholars in climate change, plant and habitat ecology, and cultural studies. A
considerable amount of scientific ecological knowledge regarding Wild Rice is already available.
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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But, this knowledge is incomplete and insufficient for developing adaptive capacity without
depth of a traditional knowledge. Traditional understanding of ecology, economy and culture is
important because adaptation is a human endeavor and not solely ecological. The program is
aimed at building and supporting capabilities by leveraging the knowledge of Native
communities and scholars by documenting and discussing climate change, responses and actions.
Foremost, the cultural understanding of weather, climate, phenologies, and ecosystem changes in
Wild Rice are critical to building adaptive capacity. Further, linked changes in Native
livelihoods, health, welfare and culture needs to better understood. This coupled knowledge will
aid the effective adaptations, mitigations, and policies that are important to the success of Wild
Rice.
Specifically, considerable ethnoecological (i.e., ecology from a Native perspective) work
needs to be undertaken both in respect to climate change and Wild Rice. First, baseline data and
monitoring of climate change and vegetation patterns that will be affected by climate change and
also affect livelihoods. Second, ethnometerology and ethnoclimatology efforts to understand
climate from indigenous perspective is lacking. The ways, in which community classifies
weather and climate, how they fit into cosmologies and activity schedules will provide a
contrasting perspective than widely used western scientific notions. Next, community
perceptions, effects, adaptations and mitigations of perceived changes will provide information
regarding traditional ways that people cope and buffer existing and possibly future variability.
Take together; there is a desperate need for joint actions amongst native communities,
scholars and other non Native stakeholders. A network of these stakeholders will need to be
developed, who will aid in the creation of novel solutions using participatory and collaborative
approaches. This research will aid in development of effective management and conservation of
Wild Rice.
Ecological Services
Monitoring and conservation: Plan, develop proposals, secure funding and implement
projects that monitor, preserve, protect and disseminate knowledge about Wild Rice. These
services will contribute to the understanding of changes in rice ecology, climate change, effects,
and other factors that affect the success of Wild Rice.
Resource services: Wild Rice adaptation is linked to the capability of the plant to adjust
to the changing environment. To facilitate this effort, actions aimed at the long term viability are
required. For example, exchange and storage networks for seeds are needed to aid in the buildup
of genetic diversity, and the avoidance of catastrophic failure. These activities can also aid
scholars and communities by creating a repository of cultivars for study. Further, services that
pools and disseminates information regarding ricing ecology, habitats and techniques (cultural
and ecological) will also enhance adaptation capability.
Regulatory Protection
Engage with efforts to understand and enforce the legal protection of Wild Rice. The
efforts are inextricably tied to Native sovereignty and treaty rights. Using these existing legal
frameworks, Tribes must preserve and protect wild rice habitats, their rights to harvest, and the
patents of rice genetics. Further, habitat related issues must also be addressed; including the
regulation of factors that influence water levels and limits of fluvial velocity that pose concern
for wild rice. A first step can be to engage with Great Lakes Indian Fisheries and Wildlife
Commission and respective state department of natural resources to discuss Tribal concerns
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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regarding Wild Rice and climate change. These interactions can possibly used to develop an
intergovernmental strategy for climate change.
Education and Outreach
Develop and implement an education plan directed at both Native communities and non
Native stake holders about climate change, native perspective of wild ricing and adaptation.
Topics should include ecological, economic and cultural information about Wild Rice, climate
change, and ways to develop a climate resilient community. Additionally, education efforts in
developing and implementing adaptation recommendations will aid in building resilient and
adaptive community.
Coalition Building or Collaborations
We propose the creation of diverse collaboration in order to create a network of
stakeholders, agencies, institutions and special interests to develop a coordinated effort to
implement this plan. This network can be leveraged to research, assess, monitor, therefore
protect, preserve and expand Wild Rice to sustainable levels. Priority of collaboration with these
agencies requires an equal place for native communities in planning and participation. A first
step can be a creation of place (i.e., a web based resource center for stakeholders to interact,
share resources, strategize and plan for future action).
Collaborative Agencies & Institutions
Great Lakes Fisheries and Wildlife Commission (http://www.glifwc.org)
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (http://www.fws.gov)
United States Forest Service (http://www.usfs.gov)
Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov)
Department of Natural Resources (http:// www.michigan.gov/dnr/)
MSU Native American Institute (http://www.nai.msu.edu/)
Michigan Inter Tribal Council (http://www.itcmi.org/)
Native Wild Rice Coalition (http://www.nativewildricecoalition.com/)
United States Department of Agriculture (http://www.usda.gov)
Future Funding Sources
EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (http://greatlakesrestoration.us)
NSF National Science Foundation (http://www.nsf.gov/)
Acknowledgements
The research team (Barbara Barton and Jubin J. Cheruvelil) thanks the efforts of Roger Labine,
the LVD Tribal Elders, Peter David of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission,
and Lac Vieux Desert Tribe.
Citations
Berkes, F., M. Kislalioglu, et al. (1998). "Exploring the Basic Ecological Unit: Ecosystem-like
Concepts in Traditional Societies." Ecosystems 1: 409-415.
Cheruvelil, Jubin J., Barton, Barbara Wild Rice Adaptation to Climate Change
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GLIFWC, 2012 http://www.glifwc.org, Last Accessed 6/15/2012
Odner, 1992 The Varanger Saami: Habitation and Economy AD Scandinavian University Press, Oslo
(1992) 12001900
Sabo, G. 1991. Long-term adaptations among Arctic hunter-gatherers, London: Garland
Publishing.
Warren, D.M., L.J. Slikkerveer and D. Brokensha (eds) (1995) "The cultural dimension of
development: Indigenous knowledge systems". London: Intermediate Technology
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The Varanger Saami: Habitation and Economy AD
  • Odner
Odner, 1992 The Varanger Saami: Habitation and Economy AD Scandinavian University Press, Oslo (1992) 1200-1900