How adaptive capacity shapes the Adapt, React, Cope response to climate impacts: insights from small-scale fisheries

Abstract

As the impacts of climate change on human society accelerate, coastal communities are vulnerable to changing environmental conditions. The capacity of communities and households to respond to these changes (i.e., their adaptive capacity) will determine the impacts of climate and co-occurring stressors. To date, empirical evidence linking theoretical measures of adaptive capacity to community and household responses remains limited. Here, we conduct a global meta-analysis examining how metrics of adaptive capacity translate to human responses to change (Adapt, React, Cope response) in 22 small-scale fishing case studies from 20 countries (n = 191 responses). Using both thematic and qualitative comparative analysis, we evaluate how responses to climate, environmental, and social change were influenced by domains of adaptive capacity. Our findings show that adaptive responses at the community level only occurred in situations where the community had Access to Assets, in combination with other domains including Diversity and Flexibility, Learning and Knowledge, and Natural Capital. In contrast, Access to Assets was nonessential for adaptive responses at the household level. Adaptive households demonstrated Diversity and Flexibility when supported by strong Governance or Institutions and were often able to substitute Learning and Knowledge and Natural Capital with one another. Standardized metrics of adaptive capacity are essential to designing effective policies promoting resilience in natural resource-dependent communities and understanding how social and ecological aspects of communities interact to influence responses. Our framework describes how small-scale fishing communities and households respond to environmental changes and can inform policies that support vulnerable populations.

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Acknowledgments

We thank authors Dr. Nathan Bennett, Dr. Johanna Forster, Dr. Rashid Sumaila, and Dr. Ian Perry for providing additional information for case studies included in the meta-analysis. We thank Dr. Jenna Davis at Stanford University for her insight on QCA. We thank the anonymous reviewers who provided detailed and thoughtful comments on the manuscript.

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Green, K.M., Selgrath, J.C., Frawley, T.H. et al. How adaptive capacity shapes the Adapt, React, Cope response to climate impacts: insights from small-scale fisheries. Climatic Change 164, 15 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-021-02965-w

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Keywords

  • Small-scale fisheries
  • Adaptive capacity
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Environmental change
  • Quantitative meta-analysis
  • Qualitative comparative analysis