Environmental Management

, Volume 56, Issue 6, pp 1487–1501 | Cite as

Can Perceptions of Environmental and Climate Change in Island Communities Assist in Adaptation Planning Locally?

  • Shankar Aswani
  • Ismael Vaccaro
  • Kirsten Abernethy
  • Simon Albert
  • Javier Fernández-López de Pablo


Local perceptions of environmental and climate change, as well as associated adaptations made by local populations, are fundamental for designing comprehensive and inclusive mitigation and adaptation plans both locally and nationally. In this paper, we analyze people’s perceptions of environmental and climate-related transformations in communities across the Western Solomon Islands through ethnographic and geospatial methods. Specifically, we documented people’s observed changes over the past decades across various environmental domains, and for each change, we asked respondents to identify the causes, timing, and people’s adaptive responses. We also incorporated this information into a geographical information system database to produce broad-scale base maps of local perceptions of environmental change. Results suggest that people detected changes that tended to be acute (e.g., water clarity, logging intensity, and agricultural diseases). We inferred from these results that most local observations of and adaptations to change were related to parts of environment/ecosystem that are most directly or indirectly related to harvesting strategies. On the other hand, people were less aware of slower insidious/chronic changes identified by scientific studies. For the Solomon Islands and similar contexts in the insular tropics, a broader anticipatory adaptation planning strategy to climate change should include a mix of local scientific studies and local observations of ongoing ecological changes.


Adaptation planning Climate and environmental change Local knowledge Perceptions Solomon Islands 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shankar Aswani
    • 1
  • Ismael Vaccaro
    • 2
  • Kirsten Abernethy
    • 3
  • Simon Albert
    • 4
  • Javier Fernández-López de Pablo
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science (DIFS)Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Environment and Sustainability InstituteUniversity of ExeterPenrynUK
  4. 4.School of Civil EngineeringUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES)Área de Prehistoria Universitat Rovira i VirgiliTarragonaSpain

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