Cumulative Environmental Impacts in the Gwich’in Cultural Landscape




Proverbs, Tracey Angela
Lantz, Trevor C.
Gwich'in Tribal Concil Department of Cultural Heritage

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Environmental changes are impacting northern environments and human communities. Cumulative impact assessments are vital to understanding the combined effects of regional industrial developments and natural disturbances that affect humans and ecosystems. A gap in cumulative impacts literature includes methods to evaluate impacts in cultural landscapes. In this study, we utilized spatial overlay analysis to assess cumulative environmental impacts in the cultural landscape of northern Canada’s Gwich’in Settlement Region. In three analyses, we quantified and mapped: (1) Cultural feature density, (2) cumulative environmental disturbance, and (3) potential overlap between disturbances and cultural features. Our first analysis depicts the extent and pattern of cultural relationships with regional landscapes and illustrates the Gwich’in cultural landscape, with widespread harvesting trails, named places, traditional use areas, and archaeological sites found in highest densities near important waterways. Our second analysis suggests that spatial overlay can track multiple disturbances, illustrating diffuse, lower intensity cumulative environmental impacts. The final analysis shows that overlaying disturbance and cultural feature data provides a novel way to investigate cumulative impacts in a cultural landscape, indicating relatively low levels of potential overlap between Gwich’in cultural features and disturbances. These methods provide one way to investigate cumulative impacts, relevant for well- documented cultural landscapes.



cumulative impact assessment, cultural landscape, cultural feature, spatial overlay analysis, Canadian subarctic, Gwich'in


Proverbs, T. A., Lantz, T. C., & Gwich’in Tribal Council Department of Cultural Heritage(2020). Cumulative environmental impacts in the Gwich’in cultural landscape. Sustainability, 12(11).