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How small communities respond to environmental change: patterns from tropical to polar ecosystems

Henry P. Huntington, Huntington Consulting
Alpina Begossi, Capesca/Nepa/Unicamp, Rua Albert Einsteins/n, Campinas, SP; Fisheries and Food Institute; Ecomar/Unisanta/Santos, SP
Shari Fox Gearheard, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado Boulder
Beth Kersey, Iowa State University
Philip A. Loring, School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan
Tero Mustonen, University of Eastern Finland; Snowchange Cooperative
Prakash K. Paudel, Center for Conservation Biology, Kathmandu Institute of Applied Sciences, Kathmandu, Nepal
Renato A. M. Silvano, Department of Ecology, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)
Ron Vave, Institute of Applied Science, University of the South Pacific, Fiji; Marine Biology Graduate Program, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

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Local communities throughout the world are experiencing extensive social, cultural, economic, environmental, and climatic changes. Rather than passively accepting the effects of such changes, many communities are responding in various ways to take advantage of opportunities and to minimize negative impacts. We review examples from 13 cases around the world to identify patterns in how communities have been able to respond to change. Communities are able to respond by making changes in the time and location of activities, by using different species, by developing or using new technologies, and by organizing themselves internally or in networks. The possible responses a community can make on its own constitute the autonomous response space. When communities work with others to respond, they are in the collaborative response space. These findings suggest that assessments concerning climate and other forms of change should include local responses as a foundation for policy recommendations, recognizing that both autonomous and collaborative responses can contribute to adaptation. Policies designed to achieve adaptation or sustainability should consider ways to expand the autonomous response space, thus freeing local initiative, while also making the collaborative response space more cooperative, thus providing support to communities rather than imposing limitations.

Key words

climate change; environmental change; management; policy; response space; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2017 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