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New migration and distribution patterns of Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) around Nunavik (Quebec, Canada) identified using Inuit Knowledge


ABSTRACT: Environmental changes are affecting the Arctic at an unprecedented rate, but limited scientific knowledge exists on their impacts on species such as walruses (Odobenus rosmarus). Inuit Traditional and Local Ecological Knowledge (Inuit TEK/LEK) held by Inuit walrus harvesters could shed light on walrus ecology and related environmental changes. Our main objective was to study spatial and temporal changes in Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) distribution in Nunavik (northern Québec, Canada) using Inuit TEK/LEK. To do so, we documented the knowledge and observations of 33 local hunters and Elders as part of a larger project on Atlantic walruses in Nunavik. We first gathered information on changes in Inuit land use patterns and harvesting practices through time and space, which was a crucial step to avoid potential biases in interpreting local observations on walrus distribution. We found that walrus hunters are now covering smaller hunting areas over shorter time periods, reducing in space and time their observations of Atlantic walruses around Nunavik. While clearly taking these limitations into account, we learned from interviews that some areas abandoned by Atlantic walruses in the past were now being re-occupied. Importantly, Atlantic walruses, which migrate following the melting ice, are now traveling along the eastern coast of Nunavik one month earlier, suggesting that Atlantic walrus migration has changed due to variations in sea-ice coverage around Nunavik. Our study not only highlighted important changes in Atlantic walrus distribution and migration in Nunavik, but also sheds light on the importance of documenting temporal and spatial changes in Inuit land use patterns and harvesting practices to understand the ecology of Arctic species using Inuit Knowledge.

Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s00300-021-02920-6.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC8550009 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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