Arctic Community Resilience to Boreal Environmental change: Assessing Risks from fire and disease (ACRoBEAR)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment


The goal of ACRoBEAR is to predict and understand health risks from wildfire air pollution and natural-focal disease at high latitudes, under rapid Arctic climate change, and resilience and adaptability of communities across the region to these risks. This will be achieved through integrating satellite and in-situ observations, modelling, health data and knowledge, and community knowledge and stakeholder dialogue.The Arctic has warmed rapidly over recent decades, at around twice the rate of global mean temperature increases, resulting in rapid changes to the high latitude Earth system. Changes in the high latitude terrestrial environment include observed increases in temperature extremes and precipitation patterns, which are leading to increasing trends in boreal wildfire and changes in the distribution of disease-carrying vectors, with evidence for emerging interactions between these changing risks. Recent years (including 2019) have seen unprecedented fire activity at Arctic latitudes, leading to unhealthy air quality in high latitude towns and cities. Vector-borne disease occurrence in these regions is also changing in response to rapid changes in temperature and moisture. Moreover, fire activity is intrinsically linked to changes in vector-borne disease risk through changing the habitat conditions for vectors and their hosts. Environmental, social, and governance factors specific to high latitudes hamper our current ability to understand community resilience and response to these changing risks. ACRoBEAR will tackle these urgent issues in the most rapidly warming region of the planet.

To address these research challenges, ACRoBEAR brings together a diverse, international, interdisciplinary team of world-leading research groups and collaborators. The project will benefit from two-way dialogue with community groups and stakeholders throughout, across three key regions (Alaska, Eastern Siberia, Sweden). These groups will take an active part in co-design of specific research deliverables, and contribute local and indigenous knowledge to the development of new understanding within the project. ACRoBEAR aims to connect natural science with local community and stakeholder priorities, and to integrate natural science with local community knowledge and understanding. The ACRoBEAR team comprises world-leading experts in air pollution, climate science, natural-focal disease, social science and governance, landscape fire science, and health science, from across four European countries, Russia, and the United States. The unique interdisciplinary team will allow an end-to-end state-of-the art assessment of community resilience to changes in risk due to wildfire and natural-focal disease at high latitudes as a result of rapid Arctic warming. The planned workflow exploits cross-disciplinary collaboration and knowledge transfer to deliver integrated outcomes.

ACRoBEAR will benefit a broad range of local and national-level stakeholders, including local communities, government, health and forestry agencies, and local and national policy makers. ACRoBEAR will deliver substantial impact on local communities, policy makers and health agencies in Arctic nations. Impact will result from providing new understanding to enable implementation of robust measures for mitigating harmful health impacts due to changes in high latitude wildfire and natural-focal disease and development of policy options to enable adaptation and increase resilience, tailored to regional communities and governance structures. The key legacy impact will be a series of web-based data tools and resources, carefully tailored to community and stakeholder needs via continual two-way dialogue throughout the project.

Planned Impact

ACRoBEAR will benefit a broad range of local and national-level stakeholders, including local communities, government, health and forestry agencies, and local and national policy makers. The foundation for community and stakeholder engagement will be established in Task 1 through the development of the ACRoBEAR Community Stakeholder Forum (CSF). A wide-scoping recruitment process will be undertaken of community members, leaders, and local agencies for each region, to ensure maximum input to and benefit from 2-way dialogue on project aims and outcomes.

The high degree of public interest in climate change, and Arctic change, in particular should also be recognised. ACRoBEAR will engage specifically with a general public audience to improve public education with regard to Arctic change and its impacts. A key advantage of our international, interdisciplinary team is the potential to reach a geographically broad audience through a wide range of public-facing outlets. Opportunities for such engagement are outlined below.

The following activities will ensure maximum impact of project outcomes:

- The ACRoBEAR website will act as a central portal for several levels and stages of information sharing and dissemination during and after the project. This will include online project and data management functionality for use within the Project Team, the community dashboard tool, access to legacy community toolkits, as well as links to project outputs (reports, publications) and general project information on objectives and results for the general public and science communities. To encourage public engagement, the website will be kept up to date with news items, talking head interviews with Project Team and CSF members, blog posts, and ACRoBEAR social media feeds.

- A key path for dissemination of detailed natural and social science outcomes to the international research communities will be through peer-reviewed journal publications in high impact and trans-disciplinary journals. The scientific publication strategy will be overseen by the Steering Group, and will adhere to the requirements and policies of national funding agencies.

- Involvement of the ACRoBEAR team members in key international research initiatives will ensure widespread dissemination of outcomes to the international research community, and allow research community feedback on preliminary and developing project outcomes during the project. Such initiatives include the IGAC/IASC PACES (air Pollution in the Arctic: Climate, Environment and Societies) project (Arnold/Law co-chairs), PEEX (Pan-Eurasian Experiment) initiative (Petaja). Presentation of ACRoBEAR results at meetings of these communities will facilitate rapid routes for dissemination to broad but specialist audiences. It is expected that annual Project Team and External Advisory Board meetings will be timed to coincide with PACES or PEEX Science Meetings.

- In addition to the publicly accessible web resources described above, ACRoBEAR investigators will engage with opportunities for delivering public lectures, media interviews, and involvement in Arctic-related outreach activities through e.g. AMAP. The investigators have extensive experience with these activities from past work. We will also use social media to disseminate ACRoBEAR news and results, using a dedicated Twitter feed for the project, as well as Facebook and Instagram accounts.

- The hub of community engagement at the centre of ACRoBEAR is the Community Stakeholder Forum (see Task 1 and Management Plan), through which we will build a sustainable two-way dialogue with community groups and individuals for the duration of the project. Where possible, exploiting links in existing projects, we will visit local schools to share appropriate level research outcomes, and inform delivery of the science curriculum to K-12 students through research-based learning. We will also engage with local faith groups and other community fora.


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