Main content area

Similarities and Differences in Barriers and Opportunities Affecting Climate Change Adaptation Action in Four North American Landscapes

Lonsdale, Whitney R., Kretser, Heidi E., Chetkiewicz, Cheryl-Lesley B., Cross, Molly S.
Environmental management 2017 v.60 no.6 pp. 1076-1089
climate change, decision making, ecosystems, funding, human communities, landscapes, leadership, managers, natural resource management, politics, state parks, Alaska, Arctic region, Ontario, Rocky Mountain region
Climate change presents a complex set of challenges for natural resource managers across North America. Despite recognition that climate change poses serious threats to species, ecosystems, and human communities, implementation of adaptation measures is not yet happening on a broad scale. Among different regions, a range of climate change trajectories, varying political contexts, and diverse social and ecological systems generate a myriad of factors that can affect progress on climate change adaptation implementation. In order to understand the general versus site-specific nature of barriers and opportunities influencing implementation, we surveyed and interviewed practitioners, decision-makers, and scientists involved in natural resource management in four different North American regions, northern Ontario (Canada), the Adirondack State Park (US), Arctic Alaska (US), and the Transboundary Rocky Mountains (US and Canada). Common barriers among regions related to a lack of political support and financial resources, as well as challenges related to translating complex and interacting effects of climate change into management actions. Opportunities shared among regions related to collaboration, funding, and the presence of strong leadership. These commonalities indicate the importance of cross-site learning about ways to leverage opportunities and address adaptation barriers; however, regional variations also suggest that adaptation efforts will need to be tailored to fit specific ecological, political, social and economic contexts. Comparative findings on the similarities and differences in barriers and opportunities, as well as rankings of barriers and opportunities by region, offers important contextual insights into how to further refine efforts to advance adaptation actions in those regions.