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Workshop: Global Climate Change and the Polar Archaeological Record
The Polar Archaeological Network organized a first workshop on ”Global Climate Change and the Polar Archaeological Record”, in February 2011 at the Institute of Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Tromsø, Norway. This workshop was supported by IASC and had purpose to begin formulating a coordinated, international approach for responding to and alleviating the detrimental effects of global climate change on the polar archaeological record.
|From the PAN meeting in Tromsø, february 2011. Photo: Torjer A. Olsen|
Among the covered topics were the means by which to identify and evaluate present and future risks to archaeological sites, especially those with excellent preservation of organic materials necessary for advancing arctic change research; and the developments of programs for sampling well preserved organic material for future use (joint proxies), including facilities that may need to be developed for their (eternal) storage. Given the threats to the arctic terrestrial environment, this is an urgent policy. The possibility of loosing key-elements of the human and environmental heritage of the Arctic is very real and it is of significant cultural, political, and scientific concern.
The workshop was designed to be interdisciplinary, drawing on expertise from within archaeological, cryospheric, hydrologic, coastal geomorphological and predictive modelling communities. It included the participation of young scientists. The workshop was organized around 4 themes designed to reveal the scope of relevant problems, better define these problems, and point the way to state-of-the-art approaches to solving them. The thematic areas for discussion were:
- Identification and evaluation of present and future risks to arctic archaeological sites, including most threatened locations.
- Documentation of the effects of global climate change, including monitoring programs.
- Cross-PAN GIS and predictive modelling for identification of future threatened areas.
- Operational programs and plans for site preservation, data resque, and data archive, and their implementation.
The workshop was attended by 13 representatives from most circum-arctic nations including scholars with expertise in related issues such as coastal erosion and paleoecology.
The attendees identified a number of wide-spread global change-related threats, including
- increased coastal erosion (due to sea level rise, possible increases in number and/or strength of storms, and diminished sea ice),
- increased riverine erosion (due to increases in precipitation amount or intensity and increases in glacial melting),
- drying of waterlogged sites and bogs (due to hydrological changes),
- changes in land use leading to greater ground disturbance (due to changing conditions for agriculture or displacement of populations from more threatened areas).
The warming and thawing of permafrost is a major threat to the archaeological and also paleoecological records. Several attendees presented information on efforts to develop threat assessment matrices (mostly focused on coastal erosion) through survey and modelling, and on various preliminary attempts at preservation and mitigation. Needs for sample archiving, prioritization of research locations, and international collaboration within and beyond the archaeological and paleoecological research communities were also discussed.
The organizers and attendees considered the workshop right in time and place and very successful indeed. New plans for working groups were approved and a big PAN meeting for the generation of larger working groups on the same issues as covered by the workshop is now being planned for 2012.