Project Background and Motivation

Permafrost potentially influences 30% of Earth’s coastlines (Lantuit et al., 2012). Within the last three decades, changes in the Arctic system have increased the vulnerability of these coasts to erosion and altered coastal morphologies, ecosystems, biogeochemical cycling, infrastructure, cultural and heritage sites, community well-being, and human subsistence lifestyles (Fritz et al., 2017; Jones et al., 2018). Better understanding the pace and nature of rapid changes occurring along permafrost coastlines is urgent, since a high proportion of Arctic residents live on or near coastlines, and many derive their livelihood from terrestrial and nearshore marine resources (Forbes, 2011).

Future permafrost coastal system dynamics will challenge conventional wisdom as the system enters a new state, impacting human decision-making and adaptation planning, impacts on cultural heritage resources, and likely resulting in unforeseen national security challenges. Thus, it is critical to foster the development of innovative approaches to education and outreach in a transdisciplinary international network that will enhance professional growth and encourage strategic collaborations with stakeholders from local, state, federal, and national laboratory entities. PerCS-Net will provide graduate students and early career researchers valuable networking opportunities with international collaborators and stakeholders through in-person meetings and workshops, quarterly newsletters, monthly webinars, research exchanges, data and information sharing, and the chance to work collaboratively on transdisciplinary research topics of broad societal significance. Integration of PerCS-Net with remote permafrost coastal communities will foster observation activities and programs from the circum-arctic that will both inform pressing scientific and engineering issues and provide a forum to connect K–12 students from the countries representing the study region through a data visualization and information exchange tool.

Ultimately, PerCS-Net will develop a circumpolar alliance for Arctic coastal community information exchange between stake-, rights- and knowledge holders, scientists, and land managers. There is increasingly diverse interest in permafrost coastal system issues and currently no unified source of information on the past, present, and potential future state of permafrost coastal systems that provide the level of detail needed to make decisions at scales relevant for indigenous communities across the Arctic. Such new engagement will inform intergovernmental agencies and international research and outreach programs in making science-based decisions and policies to adapt to changing permafrost coastal system dynamics. PerCS-Net will build a network of networks to assess risks posed by permafrost coastal system changes to local and global economies and well-being and facilitate knowledge transfer that will lead to circum-arctic adaptation strategies.

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Vision Statement

PerCS-Net envisions building: 
  • A sustainable, pan-Arctic permafrost coastal observatory network providing coordinated and timely information to researchers, managers, indigenous stakeholders, and the general public;
  • A transdisciplinary research network that fosters linkages in order to amplify the broader impacts of each individual network and maintain a circumpolar alliance for Arctic coastal community information exchange; 
  • An international community that fosters and empowers the next generation of students, early career researchers, and indigenous communities faced with the known and unknown challenges of the future Arctic System.