Exploring effects of climate change on Northern Plains American Indian health

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American Indians have unique vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change because of the links among ecosystems, cultural practices, and public health, but also as a result of limited resources available to address infrastructure needs. On the Crow Reservation in south-central Montana, a Northern Plains American Indian Reservation, there are community concerns about the consequences of climate change impacts for community health and local ecosystems. Observations made by Tribal Elders about decreasing annual snowfall and milder winter temperatures over the 20th century initiated an investigation of local climate and hydrologic data by the Tribal College. The resulting analysis of meteorological data confirmed the decline in annual snowfall and an increase in frost free days. In addition, the data show a shift in precipitation from winter to early spring. The number of days exceeding 90 °F (32 °C) has doubled in the past century. Streamflow data show a long-term trend of declining discharge. Elders noted that the changes are affecting fish distribution within local streams and plant species which provide subsistence foods. Concerns about warmer summer temperatures also include heat exposure during outdoor ceremonies that involve days of fasting without food or water. Additional community concerns about the effects of climate change include increasing flood frequency and fire severity, as well as declining water quality. The authors call for local research to understand and document current effects and project future impacts as a basis for planning adaptive strategies.




Doyle JT, Redsteer MH, Eggers MJ, "Exploring effects of climate change on Northern Plains American Indian health," Climatic Change. June 2013 120(3):643–655
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