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The capacity to adapt?: communities in a changing climate, environment, and economy on the northern Andaman coast of Thailand

Nathan J. Bennett, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
Philip Dearden, Department of Geography, University of Victoria
Grant Murray, Institute for Coastal Research, Vancouver Island University
Alin Kadfak, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06315-190205

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Abstract

The health and productivity of marine ecosystems, habitats, and fisheries are deteriorating on the Andaman coast of Thailand. Because of their high dependence on natural resources and proximity to the ocean, coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to climate-induced changes in the marine environment. These communities must also adapt to the impacts of management interventions and conservation initiatives, including marine protected areas, which have livelihood implications. Further, communities on the Andaman coast are also experiencing a range of new economic opportunities associated in particular with tourism and agriculture.

These complex and ongoing changes require integrated assessment of, and deliberate planning to increase, the adaptive capacity of communities so that they may respond to: (1) environmental degradation and fisheries declines through effective management interventions or conservation initiatives, (2) new economic opportunities to reduce dependence on fisheries, and (3) the increasing impacts of climate change.

Our results are from a mixed methods study, which used surveys and interviews to examine multiple dimensions of the adaptive capacity of seven island communities near marine protected areas on the Andaman coast of Thailand. Results show that communities had low adaptive capacity with respect to environmental degradation and fisheries declines, and to management and conservation interventions, as well as uneven levels of adaptive capacity to economic opportunities. Though communities and households were experiencing the impacts of climate change, especially storm events, changing seasons and weather patterns, and erosion, they were reacting to these changes with limited knowledge of climate change per se. We recommend interventions, in the form of policies, programs, and actions, at multiple scales for increasing the adaptive capacity of Thailand’s coastal communities to change. The analytical and methodological approach used for examining adaptive capacity could be easily modified and applied to other contexts and locales.

Key words

adaptive capacity; alternative livelihoods; climate change; coastal communities; fisheries management; marine protected areas; social resilience; Thailand
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