Warming world, changing ocean: mitigation and adaptation to support resilient marine systems

Ngā Hapū o Poutama community with Mt. Taranaki in the background. Photo: Eero Murtomäki, Snowchange

Ngā Hapū o Poutama community with Mt. Taranaki in the background. Photo: Eero Murtomäki, Snowchange

A new science article reviews mitigation and adaptation issues for a climate-hit ocean around the world. Indigenous viewpoints are included. Article is available here.

There was no part of the world’s Ocean where traditional and Indigenous peoples did not travel, visit or know about. Even Antarctic waters were visited by the Maori centuries before European exploration of the ocean. This has also included gendered understandings of the sea, where Indigenous women have had a special access and knowledge of their own, such as on Haida Gwaii, on the Western coast of Canada. Today when climate change is altering the seas at large we can try to discern some aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation questions from the viewpoint of Indigenous and local or traditional knowledge and wisdom. These knowledges have baselines and understandings of the ocean of which only a fraction has ever been seen outside of these worlds.

Proactive and coordinated action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be essential for achieving the healthy, resilient, safe, sustainably harvested and biodiverse ocean that the UN Decade of Ocean Science and sustainable development goals (SDGs) seek. Ocean-based mitigation actions could contribute 12% of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to keep warming to less than 1.5 8C but, because substantial warming is already locked in, extensive adaptation action is also needed. Here, as  part of the Future Seas project, we use a ‘‘foresighting/ hindcasting’’ technique to describe two scenarios for 2030 in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation for ocean systems.

The ‘‘business-as- usual’’ future is expected if current trends continue, while an alternative future could be realised if society were to effectively use available data and knowledge to push as far as possible towards achieving the UN SDGs. We identify three drivers that differentiate between these alternative futures: (i) appetite for climate action, (ii) handling extreme events, and (iii) climate interventions. Actions that could navigate towards the optimistic, sustainable and technically achievable future include:

  • (i)  proactive creation and enhancement of eco- nomic incentives for mitigation and adaptation;
  • (ii)  supporting the proliferation of local initiatives to spur a global transformation
  • (iii)  enhancing proactive coastal adaptation management
  • (iv)  investing in research to support adaptation to emerging risks
  • (v)  deploying marine-based renewable energy
  • (vi)  deploying marine-based negative emissions technologies;
  • (vii)  developing and assessing solar radiation management approaches; and
  • (viii)  deploying appropriate solar radiation management approaches to help safeguard critical ecosystems.
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Rewilding Work as a Finalist for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment


We re delighted to announce that the Landscape Rewilding Programme of Snowchange has been selected to be a Finalist for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment, one of the most prestigious environmental prizes.

The Jury says: “Originally founded in 2000, Snowchange Cooperative is a network of Indigenous and local-traditional communities working on cultural, environmental and science issues. They primarily support programmes in the boreal and the Arctic to advance Indigenous cultural issues and wellbeing, rewilding and ecosystem restoration, as well as landscape-scale restoration of community lands.

kalla3Using Indigenous and traditional knowledge alongside the latest science and research, their Landscape Rewilding Programme rebuilds community- and Indigenous-relevant lands, forests and waters into biodiversity hotspots, carbon sinks, carbon stores, and healthy environments.

The Arctic and the boreal ecosystems are hardest hit by rapidly advancing climate change, yet the northern peatlands and associated forests contain at least one third of the world’s soil-based carbon. Using Indigenous and traditional knowledge alongside the latest science and research, the Landscape Rewilding Programme restores and rewilds landscape-wide degraded ecosystems, especially peatlands, in the boreal back to health. Biodiversity issues are immediately alleviated, carbon sinks start to refunction, and water pollution is reduced, improving the health and wellbeing of the communities.”

Tero Mustonen from Snowchange comments:

The St Andrews Prize has already changed us. The staff and involved community people feel their long-term commitment to their homelands and landscapes they are rewilding has been truly recognized in this manner for the first time. We join in celebration of whoever receives the final prize, as it has already been so uplifting and empowering to us as a network. We know that our work matters for all of Europe – given the critical role of our sites as the nesting areas of the billions of birds who arrive here during the northern summer. Additionally we are alleviating the climate change impacts in scale through the peatland restoration. We hope this recognition leads to a large, wide alliance on northern rewilding that honors the local and Indigenous peoples who have spent their lives on this, especially the women who lead us like Kaisu Mustonen and Pauliina Feodoroff.

The two other finalists are




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Climate Change and Unalakleet: A Deep Analysis


A new science paper, capturing 20 years of work in Western Alaska, and reviewing options of actions under climate change, is now released. The paper is here.

04This multi-disciplinary science and Indigenous knowledge assessment paper reviews over 20 years of research materials, oral histories and Indigenous views on climate change affecting Unalakleet, Alaska, USA and Norton Sound. It brings a historical review, statistical analysis, community-based observations and wisdom from Unalakleet Iñupiaq knowledge holders into a critical reading of the current state of climate change impacts in the region. Through this process, two keystone species, Pacific salmon and caribou, are explored as indicators of change to convey the significance of climate impacts. We rely on this historical context to analyse the root causes of the climate crisis as experienced in Alaska, and as a result we position Indigenous resurgence, restoration and wisdom as answers.



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First Ever Microplastics Detected in the Näätämö Arctic River, Two Year Monitoring Mission Documents Urgent Changes

On the way to Näätämö

On the way to Näätämö

Snowchange has led the implementation of a large-scale monitoring mission in Russia, Finland and Norway Arctic regions from 2020 to 2021 -”Waters of Health”. It was funded by Nordic Environmental Finance Corporation – NEFCO (The Programme for Environment and Climate Co-operation-PECC). In partnership with the Arctic Passion Project, teams detected first ever microplastics presence in the Arctic river system of Näätämö and Lake Inari, as well as confirmed the large-scale proliferation of Pacific Pink Salmon in the region. Additionally climate change impacts detected using Indigenous knowledge were implemented.

Immerse yourself in the lake Lovozero views with this aerial video produced by the project teams.

Investigate the role of Pink Salmon and a large scale scientific study on its impacts to Ponoi River here.

Enjoy the Final Report of results here.

Look at how seas can fare better using Indigenous knowledge – a science paper from the teams

IMG_4707Locations of the project were: 

  • River Ponoi catchment and coastal Sosnovka in Murmansk region
  • River Näätämö catchment
  • Voronya River catchment
  • Lake Lovozero
  • Lake Vuonnijavr in the Murmansk region

Results in Short

We can see the impacts of climate change across the Näätämö, Vuonnijavr, Voronye and Ponoi systems, with some of the key messages being:

  • Microplastics team at work

    Microplastics team at work

    Atlantic salmon, a keystone species of the region, was observed to be smaller and less in numbers, especially in the Näätämö system and parts of Ponoi.

  • Changes to the cryosphere, i.e. snow and ice formation, quality and melt events continue. For example in November 2020 water temperatures above 10 °C normal were detected in Teno system, close to Näätämö in Finland. Emerging data from oral histories indicate that in 1920s Ponoi used to freeze in September, now the freeze-up can be delayed to November. All across Summer 2021 the temperatures over 25-30 °C were again documented in Näätämö river.  The winter sea temperature outside Sosnovka has risen and there has been no freeze-up in the sea for several years.
  • Droughts (despite big snow amounts in the previous winter) and algal blooms were observed in several parts of Ponoi. In Spring floods and ice dams were noticeable especially in Kanevka.
  • On the White Sea coast, navaga stocks were doing well and seemed to be thriving and according to Indigenous knowledge the fish operates in three-year-cycles. Lump fish was observed to dwindle.
  • Proliferation of Pink Salmon into Näätämö was observed and to be on the increase in 2021, with thousands of fish in the river. Norwegian authorities instigated measures to control the arriving populations, but mostly in vain.
  • Control fisheries for whitefish, lake Kirakkajärvi.

    Control fisheries for whitefish, lake Kirakkajärvi.

    Beluga whales are healthy and in large numbers on the White Sea coast.

  • Changes to bird populations especially on Ponoi were observed. Predator birds seemed to dwindle, except sea eagles ,whose population has increased.
  • Ecological baseline measurements of Arctic char, perch, salmon and sea trout was conducted on Näätämö.
  • First event microplastics surveys were conducted on river Näätämö as well as early measurement points on lake Inari.  This study shows that MPs are present in the freshwater bodies of northeastern Lapland. However, to study the numbers and types of MPs in detail, more samples should be collected during different seasons and weather conditions. The concentrations of MPs varied from 55 to 185 MPs/m

Below is a chart of the sampling locations summarized and amounts of microplastics detected. See the full report for details.




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Nationally Relevant, Extremely Complex Rewilding Process of Linnunsuo Peatland Comes to an End


Linnunsuo peatland complex, a wetland and a degraded peatland, totaling 180 hectares, in the village of Selkie, North Karelia, Finland comes to a successful end. Rewilding Linnunsuo alleviates loading to river Jukajoki, emerges as a carbon sink and a bird paradise.

Between 2019 and 2021, over three years, Landscape Rewilding Programme of Snowchange worked to restore and rewild a large interconnected ecosystem – Linnunsuo. Linnunsuo was a site of peat mining from 1980s to 2010. Between 2011 and 2017 first round of restoration on the site was conducted with the formation of three large wetlands. However, much of the acidic iron sulphate soils remained out in the open, continuing the risk of acidic discharge to downstream river Jukajoki.

5Between 2019 and 2021, with a partial support from the state restoration fund and Landscape Rewilding Programme, totaling 280,000 €, Snowchange teams created several new wetland units, expanding wetlands up to 90 hectares, and rewilded the associated northern degraded peatland, 73 hectares.

Alleviating iron sulphate risks from acidic soils is one of the most complex issues in water management and restoration globally. Snowchange has co-learned solutions in the Indigenous-led restoration of East Trinity Reserve in Queensland, Australia for solutions over the years. The essentials are that all acidic soils have to remain underwater.

Another relevant feature of the project was the inclusion of traditional knowledge of the villagers of Selkie along with science in design, observation and implementation of the project. This points to Linnunsuo as an internationally relevant example of merging science and traditional or Indigenous knowledge, where applicable, in practice.

4Now, after a full decade of rewilding and intense three years of scaling up, the results are here. Firstly, Linnunsuo is now safe for the waters – acidic discharges are unlikely and river Jukajoki is safe as far as we know.

Second, Linnunsuo and the northern rewilded peatland are preventing now massive amount of carbon dioxide from being released to the atmosphere. In time, they emerge as natural powerful carbon sinks again.

Thirdly, Linnunsuo has emerged as an internationally relevant bird and biodiversity hotspot. It is co-managed with the local villages and hunters. Over 195 bird species, wolverines, otters, moose, red fox and other species, as well as rare amphibians and pollinators have returned to Linnunsuo.

6Whilst Linnunsuo is not the post-Ice Age pristine peatland it once was, the success of merging traditional knowledge and science into one for the benefit for all has now, after three intense years, resulted in a safe haven for several species and increased the well-being in the villages.

Linnunsuo is also an important symbol of traditional knowledge -driven rewilding across Finland because it was the first site of the Landscape Rewilding Programme, begun in 2017, that today covers over 28,000 hectares and 41 sites across Finland, including Sámi Indigenous rewilding sites. All of the actions of the Landscape Rewilding Programme are all not-for-profit with no climate compensation or financial gains.


Recently Linnunsuo was featured in a SBS Dateline Documentary, available here.

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