Journal article

Scientific knowledge and knowledge needs in climate adaptation policy: a case study of diverse mountain regions

  • Muccione, Veruska Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Salzmann, Nadine Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland / Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Huggel, Christian Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Published in:
  • Mountain Research and Development. - 2016, vol. 36, no. 3, p. 364–375
English Mountain ecosystems around the world are recognized to be among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The need to develop sound adaptation strategies in these areas is growing. Knowledge from the natural sciences has an important role to play in the development of adaptation strategies. However, the extent of and gaps in such knowledge have not been systematically investigated for mountain areas. This paper analyzes the status of knowledge from natural science disciplines and research needs relevant to the national and subnational climate adaptation policies of 1 US state (Washington) and 7 countries (Austria, Bhutan, Colombia, Germany, Nepal, Peru, and Switzerland), in particular the elements of those policies focused on mountain areas. In addition, we asked key individuals involved in drafting those policies to answer a short questionnaire. We found that research needs mainly concern impact and vulnerability assessments at regional and local levels, integrated assessments, and improved climate and socioeconomic data. These needs are often related to the challenges to data coverage and model performance in mountainous areas. In these areas, the base data are often riddled with gaps and uncertainties, making it particularly difficult to formulate adaptation strategies. In countries where data coverage is less of an issue, there is a tendency to explore quantitative forms of impact and vulnerability assessments. We highlight how the knowledge embedded in natural science disciplines is not always useful to address complex vulnerabilities in coupled human and natural systems and briefly refer to alternative pathways to adaptation in the form of no-regret, flexible, and adaptive management solutions. Finally, in recognition of the trans- and interdisciplinary nature of climate change adaptation, we raise the question of which knowledge production paradigms are best able to deliver sustainable adaptations to growing environmental stressors in mountain regions.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
  • English
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