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Analysing trade-offs in adaptation decision-making—agricultural management under climate change in Finland and Sweden

Wiréhn, Lotten, Käyhkö, Janina, Neset, Tina-Simone, Juhola, Sirkku
Regional environmental change 2020 v.20 no.1 pp. 18
climate change, crop yield, decision making, experts, interviews, profitability, social environment, weeds, Finland, Sweden
In light of the increased focus on climate change adaptation, there is a need to understand when and how adaptation decision-making generates trade-offs. This study presents a novel framework for adaptation trade-off assessments, which integrates (I) two trade-off mechanisms (direct and interactions) and (II) two types of trade-off characteristics (substantive and processual). Perspectives on adaptation trade-offs were collected from 37 Swedish and Finnish agricultural experts through semi-structured interviews supported by serious gaming and visualization. The data were thematically analysed based on the provided analytical framework. The results show that trade-offs in agricultural adaptation decision-making processes involve balancing a number of socio-ecological system aspects that are of different character and have different functions. The study identified 20 aspects generating trade-offs related to adaptation management in Swedish and Finnish agriculture, among which ‘crop yield and profitability’, ‘farm economy’, ‘pest and weed robustness’ and ‘soil quality’ were discussed as the most prominent by respondents. The framework enables an examination of complex trade-off structures that can have implications for adaptation management decisions. The results show that the identified aspects constitute different components and functions of trade-offs, including both processual and/or substantive ones. In conclusion, the 20 identified aspects and the framework together demonstrate the importance of the two types of adaptation trade-offs and the resulting complexity of climate change adaptation decision-making in Swedish and Finnish agriculture. Furthermore, the study asserts the potential of applying the framework for various strategic contexts—to recognize and cope with trade-offs in adaptation management.