ILLUQ – The impacts of permafrost thaw in the Arctic

ILLUQ is the Inuvialuktun word for partner and cuts to the heart of this interdisciplinary project. Through a wide partnership it provides an holistic assessment of the impacts of permafrost thaw on the health of humans, animals and ecosystems.

Accelerating permafrost thaw in the Arctic drastically changes the ecosystem as a whole, which, in turn, impacts the everyday life of local communities and Indigenous populations. Yet many of the phenomena reported in the scientific literature and media are treated in isolation from other social, economic or cultural processes.  

ILLUQ specifically focuses on the impact of climate change on populations living on permafrost in the Arctic. It targets the missing link between studies performed by scientists, engineers and consultants in local communities and solutions with local stake- and rightsholders. It focusing on the long-term implications of decision-making in the context of permafrost thaw, a time frame generally overlooked in existing governance frameworks. As such, ILLUQ will provide the first stake- and rightsholder driven assessment of the impacts of permafrost thaw on pollution, health and ecosystem services in the Arctic. 

Work Packages

Activities will be articulated around nine interlinked work packages with the first five covering the provisioning, regulating, and cultural elements of ecosystem services, and another summarising and synthesising the knowledge gained. In each of these five first work packages, the work starts with stakeholder engagement to set the stage for participatory research. Each of these work packages concludes with a task focused on One Health impacts related to the specific ecosystem services.

Another work package synthesizes the knowledge gained on One Health in the earlier work packages and makes it available to local and European stakeholders. A further one synthesizes the results from participatory research and devises solutions (including nature-based solutions) together with local stake- and rightsholders. The final work package coordinates the consortium as a whole and supports data management and capacity building.  

Nordregio is leading the work package on ecosystem services, which aim is to identify, classify, and map Arctic Permafrost Ecosystem Services, a topic that has been so far overlooked. Through this work we expect to get a better understanding of how permafrost ecosystems support human activities in the Arctic and how permafrost thaw will affect these ecosystem services.


The project will work together with communities in three main sites across the Arctic; North America (Mackenzie Delta Area), Greenland (West Greenland coast) and Svalbard (Longyearbyen and surroundings). Participatory methods, community-based monitoring, and citizen science will be key methods to foster co-design, and to share participation in observation and knowledge production.  

The ILLUQ consortium gathers researchers from Germany, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Canada who will work together to understand the impact of permafrost thaw on these communities.