The Beaufort Sea coast in arctic Alaska and neighboring northern Canada has recently experienced extreme and accelerated climate change, including a dramatic reduction in summer sea ice (Gildor and Tziperman 2003, Holland et al. 2006). This absence of ice allows increased wind and wave energy to directly affect the coast, resulting in island and mainland flooding, coastal erosion, and further movement of barrier islands and beaches. The period each year in which the arctic is free of summer ice is increasing and is predicted to increase non-linearly in the future. This suggests a “tipping point” has been reached, producing internal feedback mechanisms that will further accelerate coastal change (Comiso et al., 2008). These rapid, non-linear changes have the potential to affect regional vegetation, wildlife, and human populations significantly within the next 50 years (Post et al. 2013). Coastal erosion rates are as high as several horizontal meters per year in some areas (Mars and Houseknecht 2007, Jones et al. 2008), and models developed to simulate coastal island flooding in this area predict further substantial change within the next 20 years (ALCC, unpublished data). Human systems will likely be impacted through changes to oil industry and community infrastructure currently in place along parts of the coast, to habitat availability for harvested species such as caribou, waterbirds, and anadromous fish, to culturally important landscape elements, and to both recreational and subsistence coastal access. One of the current priorities of the Arctic LCC is to communicate the results of scientific research pertinent to climate adaptation; developing materials to visualize historical and future change as well as promote discussion is important to facilitate science communication with stakeholder groups. Currently, the Arctic LCC is considering the development of a visualization tool implemented through a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform that allows the user to explore various scenarios of projected change in climate-related processes, such as sea-level rise, erosion, and storm-driven inundation. The content and format of these visualization materials, however, could vary substantially depending on the primary audience. Local stakeholder education and involvement is integral to the success of any adaptation program (Füssel 2007); materials developed with stakeholder interests and needs in mind and further critiqued by the target stakeholders will not only optimize communication of the Arctic LCC’s modeling efforts, but help validate and inform future modeling efforts based on the feedback received from stakeholders on these proposed visualization tools. There are multiple stakeholder groups that could be affected by change on the Beaufort and Chukchi sea coasts, including the energy industry, transportation sector, tourism, subsistence activities, Alaska Native coastal communities, and resource management. We conducted a needs assessment that targeted resource managers and coastal communities. Arctic area managers are interested in how change in coastal zones will affect vegetation, wildlife, and human communities in the future. In addition, coastal community residents have an obvious connection to this area due to their subsistence livelihood as well as cultural and personal ties.
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