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Water 2017, 9(10), 739; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9100739

Robust Adaptation Research in High Mountains: Integrating the Scientific, Social, and Ecological Dimensions of Glacio-Hydrological Change

1
Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
2
Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 August 2017 / Revised: 25 September 2017 / Accepted: 25 September 2017 / Published: 28 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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Abstract

Climate-related changes in glacierized watersheds are widely documented, stimulating adaptive responses among the 370 million people living in glacier-influenced watersheds as well as aquatic and riparian ecosystems. The situation denotes important interdependencies between science, society, and ecosystems, yet integrative approaches to the study of adaptation to such changes remain scarce in both the mountain- and non-mountain-focused adaptation scholarship. Using the example of glacio-hydrological change, it is argued here that this analytical limitation impedes the identification, development, and implementation of “successful” adaptations. In response, the paper introduces three guiding principles for robust adaptation research in glaciated mountain regions. Principle 1: Adaptation research should integrate detailed analyses of watershed-specific glaciological and hydro-meteorological conditions; glacio-hydrological changes are context-specific and therefore cannot be assumed to follow idealized trajectories of “peak water”. Principle 2: Adaptation research should consider the complex interplay between glacio-hydrological changes and socio-economic, cultural, and political conditions; responses to environmental changes are non-deterministic and therefore not deducible from hydrological changes alone. Principle 3: Adaptation research should be attentive to interdependencies, feedbacks, and tradeoffs between human and ecological responses to glacio-hydrological change; research that does not evaluate these socio-ecological dynamics may lead to maladaptive adaptation plans. These principles call attention to the linked scientific, social, and ecological dimensions of adaptation, and offer a point of departure for future climate change adaptation research in high mountains. View Full-Text
Keywords: adaptation; climate change; mountains adaptation; climate change; mountains
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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McDowell, G.; Koppes, M. Robust Adaptation Research in High Mountains: Integrating the Scientific, Social, and Ecological Dimensions of Glacio-Hydrological Change. Water 2017, 9, 739.

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