Sustainability Science

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 3–13 | Cite as

Role of perception in determining adaptive capacity: communities adapting to environmental change

  • Jess GrunblattEmail author
  • Lilian Alessa
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Climate Change Mitigation, Adaption, and Resilience


In this study, we investigate perception of likely environmental change as a factor of community adaptive capacity. A comparison of perceived change with science-based assessment of change is proposed to better understand community risk assessment and decision-making. Based on this analysis, we identify shared attitudes and perceptions of change that can be used to develop communication about environmental change in a manner that is appropriate within the context of the community. A community-level survey was conducted to sample differences in individual perception of likely environmental change as well as attitudes regarding climate change and natural resource management among residents of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. We compare perceptions of likely environmental change to science-based assessments of change using a conceptual framework that recognizes socio-cognitive processes associated with decision-making. We evaluate the relationship of those perceptions to attitudes using quantitative methods. A binary logistic model is used to investigate the predictive relationship between perception and attitudes regarding climate change and natural resource management. A cultural consensus model is then used to determine areas of shared community perception of change and attitudes. Results of this analysis suggest that despite diverse individual perceptions of environmental change, shared community perceptions and attitudes can be identified.


Adaptive capacity Perception of environmental change Science communication Cognitive bias and heuristics Climate change Survey research 



This study was supported by the Alaska Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (Alaska EPSCoR) NSF award #OIA-1208927 and the State of Alaska. Data from the Kenai General Population Survey: Your Values and Experiences on the Kenai were provided by Drs. Sarah Wandersee and Chad Farrell. We gratefully acknowledge Dr. Barbara Adams for her review and comments on this manuscript as well as those provided by three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alaska Center for Conservation ScienceUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.College of Art and ArchitectureUniversity of Idaho, Moscow, IdahoMoscowUSA

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