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BALANCE: Global Change Vulnerabilities in the Barents Region: Linking Arctic Natural Resources, Climate Change and Economies

BALANCE: Global Change Vulnerabilities in the Barents Region: Linking Arctic Natural Resources, Climate Change and Economies

The major goal of this international, EU-funded project is to assess the vulnerabilities of the Barents Sea Region to climate change based on a common modelling framework for major environmental and societal components as well as on the quantification of linkages between these components through an integrated assessment model.


Objectives of BALANCE include:

  • the specification of environmental and societal vulnerability indicators; estimates of present environmental and societal vulnerabilities, partly based on an assessment of presently observable shifts in terrestrial biodiversity,
  • the refinement/adjustment/development of impact models for specific components of the Barents Sea system,
  • the (re-) assessment of the nature and strength of links between components of this system and their quantification through an integrated assessment model,
  • the implementation of a regional climate model for the study region; the assessment of climate change impacts for different time slices (2020, 2050 and possibly 2080),
  • estimates of future environmental and societal vulnerabilities to climate change of the Barents Sea system,
  • the implementation of a stakeholder-scientists collaborative and
  • an assessment of perceptions and views of local residents on climate change.

Within the overall framework of BALANCE, SPRI's role (which is shared between the Polar Landscapes and Remote Sensing Group and the Polar Social Science and Humanities Group) is to develop models of the interactions between reindeer herding and vegetation distribution, and between reindeer husbandry and socioeconomic and policy factors. The main study area is the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia.

Vulnerability of European reindeer husbandry to global change

Around one million reindeer are grazed in northern Europe, on an area of about three quarters of a million square kilometres. These reindeer are managed principally by indigenous northern peoples - mainly Sámi, Komi and Nenets - and form an important part of their economic and cultural identities. The presence of large numbers of large mammals has a significant effect on the distribution and type of vegetation north of the treeline, and it is important to understand the influence of reindeer before attempting to interpret any changes that may be occurring in the pattern of vegetation.

As part of the BALANCE project, we are investigating the vulnerability of European reindeer husbandry to global change in the period to 2080.

Global Change vulnerabilities in the Barents Region

This research looks at consequences of and responses to global change at the local level from an interdisciplinary perspective. It bridges the gap between the natural science and social science approaches to studying processes of change and continuity in the Arctic. Climate change is conceptualised as one aspect within a set of complex interrelations of animate and inanimate components of the environment, such as reindeer pastures, plants, animals, people, spirits, and weather.