Measuring the vulnerability of marine social-ecological systems: a prerequisite for the identification of climate change adaptations
van Putten, EI
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AbstractReducing the vulnerability of coastal communities to marine climate change requires that communities have some intrinsiccapacity to adapt. To assist adaptation planning and the implementation of adaptation strategies, identifying barriers and enablers toadaptation is important. Adaptive capacity, resource dependence, local climate change exposure and biological sensitivity were usedto assess socioeconomic vulnerability to climate change in three Australian coastal communities: St Helens, Tasmania; Bowen,Queensland; and Geraldton, Western Australia. Higher adaptive capacity was associated with larger population size (i.e., Geraldton)whereas greater resource dependence, and lower human and natural capital were associated with smaller populations (St Helens andBowen). Socioeconomic vulnerability was greatly influenced by climate exposure and sensitivity with the moderately sized Bowen havingthe highest socioeconomic vulnerability to climate change. Adaptation strategies that utilized available assets, improved adaptivecapacity, or reduced socioeconomic vulnerability were identified in partnership with local communities, including increased anddiversified employment opportunities, the re-establishment of local fish markets, and improved education and communication. Thelevel of resources, or capitals, available to communities can indicate where barriers and enablers to adaptation exist. Identified barriersto adaptation included a heavy reliance on one sector for employment and a lack of physical capital. We demonstrate that knowledgeof intrinsic community characteristics can be beneficial for prioritizing adaptation actions to reduce socioeconomic vulnerability tomarine climate change.