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Perceptions of Australian marine protected area managers regarding the role, importance, and achievability of adaptation for managing the risks of climate change

Christopher Cvitanovic, Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO; Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University
Nadine A. Marshall, Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO, based at James Cook University
Shaun K. Wilson, Marine Science Program, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Australia; Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia
Kirstin Dobbs, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australia
Alistair J. Hobday, Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO, Tasmania


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The rapid development of adaptation as a mainstream strategy for managing the risks of climate change has led to the emergence of a broad range of adaptation policies and management strategies globally. However, the success of such policies or management interventions depends on the effective integration of new scientific research into the decision-making process. Ineffective communication between scientists and environmental decision makers represents one of the key barriers limiting the integration of science into the decision-making process in many areas of natural resource management. This can be overcome by understanding the perceptions of end users, so as to identify knowledge gaps and develop improved and targeted strategies for communication and engagement. We assessed what one group of environmental decision makers, Australian marine protected area (MPA) managers, viewed as the major risks associated with climate change, and their perceptions regarding the role, importance, and achievability of adaptation for managing these risks. We also assessed what these managers perceived as the role of science in managing the risks from climate change, and identified the factors that increased their trust in scientific information. We do so by quantitatively surveying 30 MPA managers across 3 Australian management agencies. We found that although MPA managers have a very strong awareness of the range and severity of risks posed by climate change, their understanding of adaptation as an option for managing these risks is less comprehensive. We also found that although MPA managers view science as a critical source of information for informing the decision-making process, it should be considered in context with other knowledge types such as community and cultural knowledge, and be impartial, evidence based, and pragmatic in outlining policy and management recommendations that are realistically achievable.

Key words

adaptive management; decision making; knowledge exchange; knowledge transfer; science impact; science integration; trust

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087