Balancing Structural Conflicts Across Scales to Develop and Mobilise Adaptive Capacity

  • Margot HillEmail author
Part of the Advances in Global Change Research book series (AGLO, volume 54)


Building on the three stages of analysis presented in Part III, this first chapter of Part IV discusses the challenges of developing and mobilising adaptive capacity across the complex spatial and temporal scales that emerged as key themes in earlier analysis. Across the spatial scale, there is a challenge in balancing guidance and certainty from higher levels of governance with flexibility of autonomous actors to respond quickly to challenges at the local scale. Furthermore, adaptation to certain stress conditions within one scale or magnitude of change was found to not necessarily imply long-term adaptability to conditions whose persistence and impacts will be more pervasive.


Rhône, Canton Valais, Switzerland Aconcagua, Region V, Chile Long term adaptability Short term reactive capacity Tensions across governance scales Adaptation to climate change and variability Balancing flexibility and predictability 


  1. Carson J, Doyle J (2000) Highly optimized tolerance: robustness and design in complex systems. Phys Rev Lett 84(11):2529–2532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chapin FS, Folke C, Kofinas GP (2009) A framework for understanding change. In: Chapin FS, Kofinas GP, Folke C (eds) Principles of ecosystem stewardship resilience-based natural resource management in a changing world. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Cosens B (2010) Resilience and administrative law in transboundary river governance. Paper presented at the Law for Social-Ecological Resilience Conference, Stockholm Environmental Law and Policy Centre and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm, 17–19 November 2010Google Scholar
  4. Craig RK (2009) ‘Stationariy is dead’ – long life transformation: five principles for climate change adaptation Law. Florida State University, TallahasseeGoogle Scholar
  5. Ebbesson J (2010) The rule of law in governance of complex socio-ecological changes. Glob Environ Chang 20(3):414–422. doi:DOI  10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2009.10.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Engle NL, Johns OR, Lemos MC, Nelson DR (2011) Integrated and adaptive management of water resources: tensions, legacies, and the next best thing. Ecol Soc 16(1):19 [online].
  7. Folke C (2006) Resilience: the emergence of a perspective for social-ecological systems analyses. Glob Environ Chang 16(3):253–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Folke C, Carpenter SR, Walker B, Scheffer M, Chapin T, Rockström J (2010) Resilience thinking: integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability. Ecol Soc 14(4):20 [online]. Google Scholar
  9. Garmestani AS, Benson MH (2010) Actualizing panarchy within environmental policy: mechanisms for tweaking institutional hierarchies to mimic the social social-ecological systems they manage. Paper presented at the Law for Social-Ecological Resilience, Stockholm University, Stockholm, 17–19 November 2010Google Scholar
  10. Gunderson LH, Holling CS (2002) Panarchy: understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  11. Herrfahrdt-Pähle E (2010) The transformation towards adaptive water governance regimes in the context of climate change. Universität Osnabrück, OsnabrückGoogle Scholar
  12. Huntjens P, Pahl-Wostl C, Grin J (2010) Climate change adaptation in European river basins. Reg Environ Chang 10:263–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Huntjens P, Pahl-Wostl C, Rihoux B, Schlüter M, Flachner Z, Neto S, Koskova R, Dickens C, Nabide Kiti I (2011) Adaptive water management and policy learning in a changing climate: a formal comparative analysis of eight water management regimes in Europe, Africa and Asia. Environ Policy Gov 21:145–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hurlbert M (2009) The adaptation of water law to climate change. Int J Clim Ch Strateg Manag 1(3):230–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. IISD (2006) Designing policies in a world of uncertainty, change and surprise: adaptive policy-making for agriculture and water resources in the face of climate change. International Development Research Centre & The Energy and Resources Institute, Winnipeg/Manitoba/New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  16. Ingram H (2011) Beyond universal remedies for good water governance: a political and contextual approach. In: Garrido A, Ingram H (eds) Water, Food and Sustainability. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. IPCC (2001) Climate Change 2001: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability technical summary. A report of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. WMO/UNEP, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Langlet D (2010) Concluding panel debate and closure. Paper presented at the Law for Social-Ecological Resilience, Stockholm University, Stockholm, 17–19 November 2010Google Scholar
  19. Meinzen-Dick R (2007) Beyond panaceas in water institutions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104(39):15200–15205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Netting RM (1981) Balancing on an Alp: ecological change and continuity in a Swiss Mountain Community. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. NZZ (2009) Verliert die Landwirtschaft zu viel Boden?: Zunehmender Widerstand gegen die dritte Rhonekorrektion. Neu Zurcher Zeitung, 25 April 2009 [online]. Available at:
  22. Olsson P, Gunderson LH, Carpenter SR, Ryan P, Lebel L, Folke C, Holling CS (2006) Shooting the rapids: navigating transitions to adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. Ecol Soc 11(1):18. [online] Google Scholar
  23. Ostrom E (1990) Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ostrom E (2007) A diagnostic approach for going beyond panaceas. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104(39):419–422Google Scholar
  25. Ostrom E (2010) A multi-scale approach to coping with climate change and other collective action problems. Solutions 1(2):27–36. Online: Google Scholar
  26. Pahl-Wostl C (2007) Transitions towards adaptive management of water facing climate and global change. Water Resour Manag 21(1):49–62. doi: 10.1007/s11269-006-9040-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pearce WB (2002a) Systems: schools of thought and traditions of practice. The Fielding Graduate Institute, Santa BarbaraGoogle Scholar
  28. Poteete A, Janssen M, Ostom E (2010) Working together: collective action, the commons, and multiple methors in practice. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  29. Ruhl JB (2009) Climate change adaptation and the structural transformation of environmental law. Environ Law 20(November):343Google Scholar
  30. Stubbs M, Lemon M (2001) Learning to network and networking to learn: facilitating the process of adaptive management in a local response to the UK’s National Air Quality Strategy. Environ Manag 27:321–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Tompkins EL, Adger WN (2004) Does adaptive management of natural resources enhance resilience to climate change? Ecology Soc 9(2):10 [online]. Google Scholar
  32. Tompkins EL, Adger WN (2005) Defining response capacity to enhance climate change policy. Environ Sci Policy 8:562–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Group on Climate Change and Climate Impacts Institute for Environmental SciencesUniversity of GenevaCarougeSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations