Legacies of Historical Human Activities in Arctic Woody Plant Dynamics

Signe Normand, Toke T. Hoye, Bruce C. Forbes, Joseph J. Bowden, Althea L. Davies, Bent V. Odgaard, Felix Riede, Jens Christian Svenning, Urs A. Treier, Rane Willerslev, Juliane Wischnewski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Recent changes in arctic vegetation might not be driven by climate change alone. Legacies of human activities have received little attention as a contributing factor. We examine the extent to which traditional human activities (hunting, herding, fire, wood extraction, and agriculture) have had lasting effects on arctic woody plant communities and therefore might continue to affect biome-wide responses to climate change. Evidence suggests that legacies are likely to be evident across meters to hundreds of kilometers and for decades, centuries, and millennia. The evidence, however, is currently sparse, and we highlight the potential to develop systematic assessments through a circumarctic collaboratory consisting of a network of interdisciplinary field sites, standardized protocols, participatory research, and new approaches. We suggest that human activities should be brought into consideration to increase our understanding of arctic vegetation dynamics in general and to assess woody plant responses to climate change in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-567
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2017
MoEC publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Anthropocene
  • Climate change
  • Disequilibrium dynamics
  • Herbivory
  • Land use change
  • Shrub expansion

Field of science

  • Ecology, evolutionary biology
  • Environmental sciences


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