Measuring Community Adaptive and Transformative Capacity in the Arctic Context

  • Matthew Berman
  • Gary Kofinas
  • Shauna BurnSilver
Part of the Springer Polar Sciences book series (SPPS)


Adaptive capacity (AC) plays a prominent role in reducing community vulnerability, an essential goal for achieving sustainability. The related concept, transformative capacity (TC), describes a set of tools from the resilience paradigm for making more fundamental system changes. While the literature appears to agree generally on the meaning of AC and TC, operational definitions vary widely in empirical applications. We address measurement of AC and TC in empirical studies of community vulnerability and resilience, with special attention to the problems of arctic communities. We discuss how some challenges follow from ambiguities in the broader vulnerability model within which AC is embedded. Other issues are more technical, such as a confounding of stocks (capacity) with flows (time-specific inputs or outcomes). We view AC and TC as forms of capital, as distinct from flows (i.e., ecosystem services, well-being), and propose a set of sequential steps for measuring the contribution of AC and TC assets to reducing vulnerability. We demonstrate the conceptual application in a comparative analysis of AC in two arctic Alaskan communities responding to an increase in the price of fuel. The comparative case study illustrates some key empirical challenges in measuring AC for small arctic communities.


Vulnerability Resilience Fuel price Alaska 



The research for this chapter received support from the Alaska EPSCoR program, funded by National Science Foundation award # OIA 1208927 and the State of Alaska, as well as from National Science Foundation award # ICER 1342979. Support for background research was provided by The Sharing Project of the Northwest Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit through US Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Cooperative Agreement M07AC12496.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Berman
    • 1
  • Gary Kofinas
    • 2
  • Shauna BurnSilver
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Social and Economic ResearchUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Arctic Biology and School of Natural Resources and ExtensionUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  3. 3.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA

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