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Priming the Governance System for Climate Change Adaptation: The Application of a Social-Ecological Inventory to Engage Actors in Niagara, Canada

Julia Baird, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University
Ryan Plummer, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University; Stockholm Resilience Centre
Kerrie Pickering, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University


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Climate change adaptation presents a challenge to current top-down governance structures, including the tension between provision of public goods and actions required by diverse stakeholders, including private actors. Alternative governance approaches that facilitate participation and learning across scales are gaining attention for their ability to bring together diverse actors across sectors and to foster adaptive capacity and resilience. We have described the method and outcomes from the application of a social-ecological inventory to “prime,” i.e., hasten the development of, a regional climate change adaptation network. The social-ecological inventory tool draws on the social-ecological systems approach in which social and ecological systems are considered linked. The tool bridges the gap between conventional stakeholder analysis and biological inventories, drawing on a social-ecological systems approach, and incorporates local knowledge as an explicit component. The process, which is dynamic and iterative, includes six phases: preparations, preliminary identification, identification of key individuals, interviewing, reviewing and enriching the inventory, and engagement. By considering the social and ecological aspects of a system, a more comprehensive inventory is achieved that provides a foundational platform to facilitate or support climate change adaptation processes that are participatory and learning oriented. Although social-ecological inventories have been used for ecosystem management, the intent of this research was to understand the potential of the tool for climate change adaptation. A social-ecological inventory was undertaken in the Niagara Region of Canada to assemble and facilitate a regional governance group to champion climate change adaptation. Moreover, the social-ecological inventory was purposefully undertaken as the initial step in priming the governance system and led into an adaptive comanagement process for climate change adaptation. Early indicators suggest that the social-ecological inventory has been instrumental in facilitating a multisectoral adaptive comanagement governance approach to climate change in the Niagara Region.

Key words

adaptive comanagement; climate change adaptation; local knowledge; social-ecological system

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087