Learning about climate-related risks: decisions of Northern Thailand fish farmers in a role-playing simulation game

Abstract

River-based cage aquaculture in Northern Thailand involves dealing with a number of climate- and weather-related risks. The purpose of this study was to improve understanding of how farmers make investment decisions in their fish farms when faced with risks from floods that are imperfectly known, and which may be changing. A role-playing simulation game was created to capture some of the key features of the decision-making context and explored with farmers in the field. In-depth interviews were conducted post-game to reflect on strategies used in the game as compared to in practice. As hypothesized, more frequent or larger impact floods reduced cumulative profits. Farmers reduced their stocking densities when playing in games with high likelihood of floods, but did not do so in games with large impacts when a flood occurred. Contrary to initial expectations, farmers were less likely to learn from experience—choose the optimal density and thus improve score within a game—when floods were common or had large impacts. Farmers learnt most when risks were decreasing and least when they were increasing. Providing information about likelihoods prior to a game had no impact on performance or decisions. The methods and findings of this study underline the importance of understanding decision-making behaviour around risks for climate risk management. The novel combination of experimental, role-playing, and qualitative methods revealed limitations in common assumptions about the ease of learning about risks from previous experiences. The findings also suggest that decision-support systems for aquaculture need to take into account how recent experiences, understanding of information, and other factors influence risk perceptions and decisions.

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Acknowledgments

The work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada, as a contribution to the AQUADAPT project. Thanks for Dr. Chanagun Chitmanat and Boripat Lebel for editorial inputs. Thanks to the field assistants, students, officials and farmers who helped with the field experiments and surveys.

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Correspondence to Louis Lebel.

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Editor: James D. Ford.

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Lebel, P., Sriyasak, P., Kallayanamitra, C. et al. Learning about climate-related risks: decisions of Northern Thailand fish farmers in a role-playing simulation game. Reg Environ Change 16, 1481–1494 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0880-4

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Keywords

  • Risk management
  • Decisions
  • Role-playing games
  • Aquaculture
  • Perception
  • Floods