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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

Open to change but stuck in the mud: Stakeholder perceptions of adaptation options at the frontlines of climate change and protected areas management


In recent decades, the literature on climate change and biodiversity conservation has proposed numerous climate change adaptation options; however, their effectiveness and feasibility have rarely been evaluated by those involved in frontline decision-making. In this paper, we use data from a two-day climate change adaptation workshop held at Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park, in Ontario, Canada, to understand stakeholder views on different types of adaptation options. We found that most (45%) adaptation options identified by participants were “conventional” (i.e., they are already in use and are relatively low risk and familiar to practitioners) and oriented towards directing change (i.e., they aim to help species and ecosystems respond to change and transition to a desired future state). These options also received higher effectiveness and feasibility ratings than “novel” ones. The remaining options (55%) were either “conventional” and aimed towards resisting change, or else were “novel.” Our results suggest that practitioners are open to working with change; however, there is some management resistance to more dynamic “novel” options (e.g., adjusting species assemblages), which in many instances will be required to effectively deal with inevitable climate change impacts. By focusing on understanding the factors that influence the prioritization and feasibility of adaptation options at the regional scale, and by providing practical recommendations to enhance organizational capacity to adapt to climate change, we address key implementation gaps identified in the literature.

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