Routledge - Taylor & Francis Group Ltd

Embracing uncertainty in freshwater climate change adaptation: A natural history approach

Climate shifts are not new in the experience of humans and other species, but the capacity of potential evolutionary and ecological responses to climate change has been reduced through widespread human modifications of natural ecosystems. The magnitude, duration and timescales of altered climate threats require multigenerational strategies for climate change adaptation. In many places terrestrial and aquatic species and human livelihoods are limited by the availability of freshwater resources. Current climate change adaptation practice places great faith in the ability of climate models to predict specific impacts, which then become the focus of climate change adaptation activities and thus foster reactive 'impacts thinking'. Given that freshwater climate variables are associated with high predictive uncertainty, a novel approach referred to here as 'adaptation thinking' treats ecosystems as dynamic entities that will be inherently different from current and past ecosystem states for multiple reasons, including climate change. As a result, adaptation thinking emphasizes the shifting relationship between institutions and ecosystems. This approach promotes flexibility and continuous scenario development. Using natural modes of adaptation as a template for sustainable development should promote collaboration between scientists, policymakers and development professionals

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