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Adaptation Campus

In this section we provide a summary of resources and tools used in The NRM Adaptation Checklist. To know more about a certain topic, click on the arrow against it.

S2S monitoring partnership, by Esther Beaton

S2S monitoring partnership; Photographer: Esther Beaton

  • GeneralManaging under different types of uncertainty

    Uncertainty can be managed and accommodated for in planning and should not be seen as a barrier to action as inaction may be more detrimental than assessing risk and making decisions based on that risk calculation. Below we outline some different types of uncertainty and where they come into the planning process, as well as basic ways in which they can effectively be tackled in planning.

    1. Natural variability – Natural variability are the ecological conditions, and the spatial and temporal variation in these conditions, that are relatively unaffected by people, within a period of time and geographical area’
    2. Observation/Data error – Observation error is the failure to properly observe, measure or estimate processes and quantities. It results both from imperfect methods of observation (or simply not measuring key factors) and from sampling error, i.e. the statistical differences between a sample of individuals and the population that the sample is meant to represent.
    3. System uncertainty – Our system understanding is limited by the understanding of all the links – thus, even with complex models, any projections (qualitative or quantitative) will have an element of uncertainty.
    4. Inadequate communication – Inadequate communication relates to the difficulty of effectively conveying information between scientists, managers and stakeholders. When communication is ineffective, information is lost, which can manifest itself as uncertainty.
    5. Unclear objectives – Unclear management objectives are ones that are expressed vaguely, not fully conceived, scaled improperly, or difficult to quantify.
    6. Outcome uncertainty – Outcome uncertainty occurs when actions are not implemented properly (Link et al 2012). Outcome uncertainty can be referred to as ‘implementation error’ or ‘implementation uncertainty’ because it is commonly associated with differences between a management goal and the implementation of the management plan (i.e. when a plan specifies approach X but in practice, approach Y is actually implemented). A typical example in fisheries is when actual catches of a fished stock are not equal to the model-derived allowable catch limit. Outcome uncertainty can be especially critical to NRM because it undermines the ability to determine whether management actions and recommendations are truly working.
    Table 1 . Summary of categories of uncertainty and how they can be dealt with during the different components of planning. Note that planners have the power to directly reduce uncertainty in some cases, as well as deal with it effectively.
    Type of uncertainty Occurs in which general component  of planning How to handle this uncertainty in planning – i.e. implication for decision making
    Natural variability Assessment
    Strategic planning
    Consider the range of possible states for a system when planning adaptation, which could include multiple climate futures
    Observation/  Data error Assessment Improve observation base
    Use a range of conditions
    System uncertainty Assessment
    Strategic planning
    Use a range of model configurations to make projection, if they all agree, on safer ground (this is the underlying approach of the Climate Futures Framework)
    Inadequate communication All components Consider explicit language and convey information clearly, and check how it is interpreted
    Unclear objectives Strategic planning
    Implementation planning & action
    Define the objectives and check that measurable performance against the objectives can be obtained. If not, redefine objectives.
    Outcome uncertainty Monitoring
    Cannot resolve this ahead of time. Requires careful monitoring of ecological outcomes and governance actions. Record clearly what actions were taken, such that we do know what might not have worked or been carried out.

    Landres, P.B., Morgan, P., Swanson, F.J., 1999. Overview of the use of natural variability concepts in managing ecological systems. Ecological Applications 9, 1179–1188.

    Link, J. S., Ihde, T. F., Harvey, C. J., Gaichas, S. K., Field, J. C., Brodziak, J. K. T., Townsend, H. M. & Peterson, R. M. 2012 Dealing with uncertainty in ecosystem models: The paradox of use for living marine resource management. Progress in Oceanography 102, 102-114.

  • GeneralFramework definitions

    The iterative framework presented here is consistent with a variety of other frameworks. These include:

    Dynamic Planning and Management Frameworks:

    Dynamic planning and management is planning and management in which goals and values are expected to shift in an unpredictable manner. Dealing with these uncertain shifts requires an iterative approach in which inputs are frequently assessed and the flexible approach is altered accordingly.

    Adaptive Management:

    Adaptive management is an iterative process of decision-making which allows flexibility as more information is known. This helps managers to take actions that deliver key objectives and to make changes to their approaches if objectives are not met.

    Resilience Frameworks:

    Resilience frameworks enable systematic thinking through complex socio-ecological systems. They are concerned with the ability of a system to absorb or buffer disturbances and still maintain its core economic, social and ecological attributes. They enable learning and provide mechanisms for responding to change.

    Systems Approaches:

    Approaches that recognise and account for the interactive nature and interdependence of external and internal factors that affect the system being managed.

    Action Learning Approach:

    Approaches to management in which there is no clear indication of the actions that are needed to achieve outcomes. Actions are determined in an experimental manner and changes are made depending on the outcome.

  • GeneralClimate projections

    Current climate projections are available from the Australian Climate Change Science Program, a joint initiative of the Department of Environment, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. The projections are now available and can be found here. Summary statements about regional projections are also available.

  • GeneralTools for assessment

    The UKCIP has developed a number of tools that may be useful for assessment and building your plan.The LCLIP tool provides a procedure for compiling past and recent local weather to assess vulnerability. It does not however consider future projections: http://www.ukcip.org.uk/lclip/ (compile profile of local weather). The SES tool helps build socio-economic scenarios:  http://www.ukcip.org.uk/ses/

    The UNEP Handbook on Methods for Climate Change Impact Assessment and Adaptation Strategies provides an overarching process of assessment and sub-processes for individual sectors.

    NSW OEH developed an Integrated Regional Vulnerability Assessment, a particular approach to assessment to define most vulnerable sectors at a regional level. The website includes links to an example for SE NSW as well as a guide on how to do it.

    Simple research/organising software may prove a useful way of assembling information. These allow you to ‘file’ or record information as you come across it including websites, documents and images. Endnote is one that is widely used, but a free one is Mendeley.

  • GeneralBuilding adaptive capacity

    Building natural adaptive capacity may involve the protection and restoration of ‘climate change corridors’ – areas where the extent and spatial locations of native vegetation allow species’ distribution shifts to occur and long-term viable populations to persist. The following resources can be used to infer how long these corridors might need to be, what their orientation might need to be relative to north-south, and what proportion of native vegetation they might need to contain:

    • VanDerwal, Jeremy, Murphy, Helen T., Kutt, Alex S., Perkins, Genevieve C., Bateman, Brooke L., Perry, Justin J., and Reside, April E. (2013) Focus on poleward shifts in species’ distribution underestimates the fingerprint of climate change. Nature Climate Change, 3 . pp. 239-243. (http://eprints.jcu.edu.au/24728/)
    • Doerr, VAJ, Williams, KJ, Drielsma, M, Doerr, ED, Davies, MJ, Love, J, Langston, A, Low Choy, S, Manion, G, Cawsey, EM, McGinness, HM, Jovanovic, T, Crawford, D, Austin, M & Ferrier, S 2013, Designing landscapes for biodiversity under climate change: summary for landscape managers and policy makers, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 3 pp. http://www.nccarf.edu.au/sites/default/files/attached_files_publications/Doerr_2013_Landscapes_biodiversity_climate_change_Summary.pdf


  • GeneralPlanning and decision-support tools

    CATLoG is a tool to enable end users to analyse and prepare for extreme events in a less predictable, complex world. Due to the lack of historical data, the tool relies on expert judgements on the frequency and severity of such events. The Tool uses a combination of quantitative (Cost-Benefit Analysis) and qualitative (Multi-Criteria Analysis) methods to frame the decision support Tool. The current version of the Tool allows users to conduct sensitivity tests, examine the impact of uncertain parameters ranging from climate impacts to discount rates. The final product is a user-friendly decision tool in the form of an Excel add-in together with a user manual booklet that demonstrates sample worked out projects. The Tool is made flexible so that stakeholders can adopt or refine or upgrade it for their context specific applications.

    • Trück, S, Mathew, S, Henderson-Sellers, A, Taplin, R, Keighley, T & Chin, W 2013, Climate adaptation decision support tool for local governments: CATLoG. Developing an Excel spreadsheet tool for local governments to compare and prioritise investment in climate change adaptation, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast.

    The European Union’s MEDIATION project produced a policy brief describing and comparing decision support methods for climate adaptation as well as more detailed briefs describing some of the most common methods. All the policy briefs can be found here: http://www.mediation-project.eu/platform/pbs/home.html

    Webb and Beh undertook a review of decision support tools. Use this to find tools that will work for your organisation:

    An example of evaluating adaptation options with a quick cost-benefit risk tool

    • Hobday, A. J., Chambers, L. E., Arnould, J. P. Y., Patterson, T. A., Wilcox, C., Tuck, G. N. & Thomson, R. B. 2013 Developing adaptation options for seabirds and marine mammals impacted by climate change. Final Report. FRDC-DCCEE Marine National Adaptation Research Project 2011/0533.

    A decision-making framework for groundwater dependent ecosystems

    A decision-making process using expert review in Murray Basin CMAs

  • GeneralMonitoring and evaluation tools

    The UKCIP has undertaken a review of monitoring and evaluation tools for climate change adaptation:

    A webinar produced by the Sea Change organisation also reviews monitoring and evaluation tools:

    You may like to undertake a performance review to measure the success of your planning and implementation:

    The Climate Change Adaptation Navigator developed by the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR) highlights some of the same aspects of planning that this checklist does. The Adaptation Navigator could be used as a companion approach to this checklist, with one used to develop your initial planning approaches and the other used to check and reflect on them:

    Information on the use of triggers and thresholds for climate adaptation planning can be found at:

    Note that this document outlines an adaptation framework that is different to, but consistent with what we describe in this guideline.



  • GeneralCase studies

    Example of a detailed assessment process for a specific issue – weed risk

    • Hughes, L, Downey, P, Englert Duursma, D, Gallagher, R, Johnson, S, Leishman, M, Roger, E, Smith, P & Steel, J 2013, Prioritising naturalised plant species for threat assessment: Developing a decision tool for managers, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast.

    Visioning a range of impacts to help plan adapted landscapes (case studies from SA)

    • Meyer, W 2013, Adapted future landscapes – User guide, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 19 pp.
    • Meyer, W, Bryan, B, Lyle, G, McLean, J, Moon, T, Siebentritt, M, Summers, D & Wells, S 2013, Adapted future landscapes – from aspiration to implementation, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast.

    Example of using experts to develop spatially-explicit scenarios of land-use change for multiple future climates that integrate direct and indirect impacts and the ability of systems to absorb them

    • Doerr, VAJ, Williams, KJ, Drielsma, M, Doerr, ED, Davies, MJ, Love, J, Langston, A, Low Choy, S, Manion, G, Cawsey, EM, McGinness, HM, Jovanovic, T, Crawford, D, Austin, M & Ferrier, S 2013, Designing landscapes for biodiversity under climate change: Final report, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast.

    Case study of alternative futures for a coastal community

    • Morley, P, Trammell, EJ, Reeve, I, McNeill, J, Brunckhorst, D & Bassett, S 2012, Past, present and future landscapes: Understanding alternative futures for climate change adaptation of coastal settlements and communities, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast 157 pp.

    Case study describing the advantages of having high adaptive capacity

    • Marshall NA, Park S, Howden SM, Dowd AB, Jakku ES (2013) Climate change awareness is associated with enhanced adaptive capacity. Agricultural Systems 117:30-34. doi:DOI 10.1016/j.agsy.2013.01.003

    A case study example describing why adaptive capacity surrounding use of technology is important to develop in adapting to climate change

    Marshall NA, Gordon IJ, Ash AJ (2011) The reluctance of resource-users to adopt seasonal climate forecasts to enhance resilience to climate variability on the rangelands. Climatic Change 107 (3-4):511-529. DOI 10.1007/s10584-010-9962-y

    A case study of using a ’decision relevant’ approach that enables local government officers to make use of scarce resources more efficiently to manage short term and longer term economic impacts of coastal hazards. The approach sought to protect assets at risk whose value exceeded the costs of protection, by strategically retreating elsewhere.