Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Snow cover and the loss of traditional indigenous knowledge

Indigenous reindeer herding in the circumpolar North is threatened by multiple drivers of environmental and social changes that affect the sustainability of traditional family-based nomadic use of pastures. These impacts are exacerbated by indigenous peoples’ lack of voice in governance strategies, management and adaptation responses.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Changes in spring temperature and snow cover.
Fig. 2: Periods of goavvi.


  1. Svonni, M. Väder-og Snöterminologi i LeavasSamiskan (Umeå Univ., Umeå, 1981).

  2. Eira, N. I. Bohccuid Luhtte: Gulahallat ja Ollášuhttit Siidadoalu (DAT, Guovdageaidnu, 1994).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Eira, I. M. et al. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol. 85, 117–130 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Johnsen, K. I., Mathiesen, S. D. & Eira, I. M. Ecol. Soc. 22, 33 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Dobrotvorsky, I. M. Trans. Reindeer Indust. Ser. 3, 93–98 (1938).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Reinert, E.S. et al. in Adapting to Climate Change (eds Adger, W. N. et al.) 417–432 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2009).

  7. Mathiesen, S. D. et al. in Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change: Foundations for Assessment and Adaptation 198–213 (Cambridge Univ. Press & UNESCO, 2018).

  8. Eira, I. M. G. The Silent Language of Snow: Sámi Traditional Knowledge of Snow in Times of Climate Change (UIT The Arctic Univ. of Norway, 2012).

  9. Arctic Council Permanent Participants The Ottawa Traditional Knowledge Principles (Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat, 2015).

  10. Berkes, F. & Berkes, M. K. Futures 41, 6–12 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Benestad, R. E. J. Clim. 24, 2080–2098 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hanssen-Bauer, I. et al. Climate in Norway 2100—A Knowledge Base for Climate Adaptation Report 1/2017 (NCCS, 2017).

  13. Degteva, A. et al. in Adaptation Action in Changing Arctic Perspectives from the Barents Area (eds Forsius, M. et al.) 167–194 (Arctic Council AMAP, 2017).

  14. Nymand-Larsen, J. et al. in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (eds Field, C. B. et. al.) 1567–1612 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

  15. Turi, E. I. State Steering and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Reindeer Herding Governance: Cases from Western Finnmark, Norway and Yamal, Russia (Umeå Univ., 2016).

  16. Oskal A. et al. EALÁT — Reindeer Herders' Voice: Reindeer Herding, Traditional Knowledge and Adaptation to Climate Change and Loss of Grazing Land (Arctic Council's Sustainable Development Working Group, 2009).

  17. O'Brien, K., Hayward, B. & Berkes, F. Ecol. Soc. 14(2), 12 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Turi, E.I & Eira, I. M. in Perspektiver til Fremtidig Areal- og Miljøpolitikk i Sápmi 97–111 (Sámi Parlament of Norway, Karasjok, 2016).

  19. Johnsen, K. I., Benjaminsen, T. A. & Eira, I. M. G. Norweg. J. Geogr. 69, 230–241 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

Download references


This study is part of the project ‘Rapid change — challenges or opportunities for sustainable reindeer husbandry’ (Rievdan), supported by the Research Council of Norway (grant no. 238326) and EU H2020 Interact (grant no. 730938). We express our appreciation of the reindeer herders and research participants who shared their time, experiences and perspectives with us.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Inger Marie Gaup Eira.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Eira, I.M.G., Oskal, A., Hanssen-Bauer, I. et al. Snow cover and the loss of traditional indigenous knowledge. Nature Clim Change 8, 928–931 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing