The Northern Biodiversity Program
A collaborative research initiative to document changes in the
ecological structure of northern arthropods using a comparative approach.

Traditional Knowledge

Climate change is felt more acutely in northern communities and as such, indigenous peoples are facing dramatic changes to their land and their livelihood. Specifically, changes in the levels of permafrost, shifts in the range and losses of ecologically and traditionally important species or populations, and changes in arctic food webs have large implications for the ability of indigenous peoples to predict animal movements and the dangers involved in moving across certain landscapes depending on the time of year. Indigenous knowledge is generally drawn from local observations and includes references to weather, wind, currents and sea-ice conditions.

One way to understand and track the effects of climate change in northern ecosystems is to use a “canary in the coalmine approach”, that is to identify species or groups of animals that are relatively easy to monitor, represent key ecological functions and that are likely to be affected by changes in a number of environmental factors.  Arthropods satisfy many of these conditions and thus present an interesting option for monitoring change: they have short life-cycles, high diversity, and high abundance in the north.

The NBP will attempt to provide baseline data using good ecological indicators to investigate how climate change is affecting the ecological structure of arthropods and indirectly, the structure and integrity of northern animals and their related habitats.   This knowledge, however, must be paired with knowledge from indigenous peoples, and the legacy of our project needs to remain in local communities so that future change can be detected.  We will work with two communities (Kugluktuk and Norman Wells) to develop training and mentoring about arthropod collections and taxonomy, and we hope to gain local knowledge about insects from people who live in these communities.