Monday 5
Tranformative adaptation in a changing world
Houria Djoudi, Denis Gautier
› 11:05 - 18:00 (6h55)
› Domaine de Restinclières
Transformational Adaptation in Indigenous Communities: A framework to support positive responses to extreme or rapid environmental change
Claudia Comberti  1@  
1 : Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford  (ECI)  -  Website
South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY, United Kingdom -  Royaume-Uni

When climate change impacts are particularly rapid or extreme, incremental adaptation may be insufficient (Kates et al. 2012). This is particularly relevant for indigenous and rural communities in developing countries, often the most environmentally exposed, vulnerable, marginalised and resource-dependent groups, on the frontlines of environmental change (Gadgil et al. 1993; Smith et al. 2003; Nakashima et al. 2012). In such cases, a more radical adaptive response, transformational adaptation (TA) may be required (Kates et al. 2012). Transformational adaptation refers to fundamental changes to a social-ecological system in response to a shock or other stimuli (Walker et al. 2004; Folke et al. 2010), and whilst this concept has been developed for adaptive management of ecosystems (e.g. Chapin et al. 2009, Folke et al. 2005), the factors necessary to support TA in indigenous and rural communities remain under-researched.


TA is conceived of in this instance as the radical end of a spectrum of adaptive responses, which start with ‘coping' and end in longer-term, more fundamental ‘transformation' (Thornton & Comberti 2013; Rickards & Howden 2012). This study builds upon the existing literature on requirements for transformational change (e.g. Chapin et al. 2009; Olsson et al. 2006), wider literature on social change (e.g. Reed et al. 2010), and dimensions of TA in indigenous communities (Thornton & Comberti 2013). Two case studies are presented to illustrate the concept and refine a framework for transformational adaptation: a case of responses to climate change in Himalayan communities in Humla, Nepal, is compared to a case of responses to biodiversity change in communities in the Western Ghats of India resulting from the invasive Lantana camara species.


In exploring cases where TA did and did not occur, this study enables a reflection on the differences between incremental and transformational adaptation and the determining factors in these responses. Understanding when and how to support adaptive transformation, in turn, can encourage positive responses to rapid and extreme environmental change in exposed and vulnerable communities – a situation that will become increasingly pertinent given future climate scenarios, and the numerous Indigenous and rural communities living on exposed or marginal lands around the world. This knowledge can be integrated into adaptation, mitigation and development planning, such that synergies between them can be better exploited (Thornton & Comberti 2013) and the resilience and adaptive capacity of these communities increased. The framework for transformational adaptation in Indigenous communities presented here aims to advance these objectives.

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