Farmers' perspective on agriculture and environmental change in the circumpolar north of Europe and America
Climate change may increase the importance of agriculture in the global Circumpolar North with potentially critical implications for pristine northern ecosystems and global biogeochemical cycles. With this in mind, a global online survey was conducted to understand northern agriculture and farmers’ perspective on environmental change north of 60° N. In the obtained dataset with 67 valid answers, Alaska and the Canadian territories were dominated by small-scale vegetable, herbs, hay, and flower farms; the Atlantic Islands were dominated by sheep farms; and Fennoscandia was dominated by cereal farming. In Alaska and Canada, farmers hadmostly immigrated with hardly any background in farming, while farmers in Fennoscandia and on the Atlantic Islands mostly continued family traditions. Accordingly, the average time since conversion from native land was 28 ~c28 and 25 ~c 12 years in Alaska and Canada, respectively, but 301 ~c 291 and 255 ~c155 years on the Atlantic Islands and in Fennoscandia, respectively, revealing that American northern agriculture is expanding. Climate change was observed by 84% of all farmers, of which 67% have already started adapting their farming practices, by introducing new varieties or altering timings. Fourteen farmers reported permafrost on their land, with 50% observing more shallow permafrost on uncultivated land than on cultivated land. Cultivation might thus accelerate permafrost thawing, potentially with associated consequences for biogeochemical cycles and greenhouse gas emissions. About 87% of the surveyed farmers produced for the local market, reducing emissions of food transport. The dynamics of northern land-use change and agriculture with associated environmental changes should be closely monitored. The dataset is available for further investigations.