Environmental Management

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 94–109 | Cite as

Crop Growers’ Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change: A Situated Study of Agriculture in Arizona’s Verde Valley

  • Elizabeth Douglass-GallagherEmail author
  • Diana Stuart


Climate change will pose unprecedented challenges for agricultural producers globally, requiring the ability to adapt to new and unpredictable conditions. This study explores the adaptive capacity of crop growers in the Verde Valley, Arizona (US). Rather than examining pre-determined indicators of adaptive capacity, this study adopts a situated framework that examines material conditions, perceptions, and the larger social context. Interviewers used past experiences and future scenarios to allow factors that enhance or constrain adaptive capacity to emerge from the interviews. Findings reveal adaptation is site specific but general measures can be taken to enhance adaptive capacity. Encouraging diversity in crops and water sources, the use of drought and heat tolerant crops, and the use of water conservation practices will likely increase growers' adaptive capacity. In contrast, lack of support from organizations and government programs, lack of diverse crops and sources of water, lack of awareness about climate change, and growers' confidence in their ability to always adapt impairs adaptive capacity. Verde Valley growers will need increased support from local and national organizations to adapt to projected changes. The situated framework applied in this study reveals important insights and could be used to explore adaptive capacity in other agricultural regions.


Climate change Agriculture Adaptive capacity Water Arizona 



This research was funded by Northern Arizona University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

267_2018_1114_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary Information


  1. Adger WN, Dessai S, Goulden M, Hulme M, Lorenzoni I, Nelson DR, Naess LO, Wolf J, Wreford A (2009) Are there social limits to adaptation to climate change? Clim Change 93(3-4):335–354Google Scholar
  2. ADWR (2000) Verde River Watershed Study. Arizona Department of Water Resources. Accessed 6 July 2017
  3. Bausch JC, Eakin H, Smith-Heisters S, York AM, White DD, Rubinos C, Aggarwal RM (2015) Development pathways at the agriculture–urban interface: The case of Central Arizona. Agric Hum Values 32:743–759Google Scholar
  4. Bhattacherjee A (2012) Social science research: Principles, methods, and practices. Textbooks Collection. Book 3. Accessed 6 July 2017
  5. Blasch KW, Hoffmann JP, Graser LF, Bryson JR, Flint AL (2006) Hydrogeology of the upper and middle Verde River watersheds, central Arizona. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5198. Accessed 6 July 2017
  6. Bolin B, Seetharam M, Pompeii B (2010) Water resources, climate change, and urban vulnerability: A case study of Phoenix, Arizona. Local Environ 15(3):261–279Google Scholar
  7. Brown PR, Nelson R, Jacobs B, Kokic J, Ahmed M, DeVoil P (2010) Enabling natural resource managers to self-assess their adaptive capacity. Agric Syst 103:562–568Google Scholar
  8. Brugger J, Crimmins M (2015) The art of adaptation: Living with climate change in the rural American Southwest. Glob Environ Chang 23:1830–1840Google Scholar
  9. Charmaz K (2006) Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Sage Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Coleman JS (1958) Relational analysis: The study of social organizations with survey methods. Hum Organ 17(4):28–36Google Scholar
  11. Coles AR, Scott CA (2009) Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change and variability in semi-arid rural southeastern Arizona, USA. Nat Resour Forum 33:297–309Google Scholar
  12. Cote M, Nightingale AJ (2012) Resilience thinking meets social theory situating social change in socioecological systems (SES) research. Prog Hum Geogr 36(4):475–489Google Scholar
  13. Darnhofer I (2014) Resilience and why it matters for farm management. Eur Rev Agric Econ 41(3):461–484Google Scholar
  14. Dixon JL, Stringer LC, Challinor AJ (2014) Farming system evolution and adaptive capacity: Insights for adaptation support. Resources 3(1):182–214Google Scholar
  15. Dunckel M (2013) Small, medium, large – Does farm size really matter? Accessed 6 July 2017
  16. Eakin HC, Lemos MC, Nelson DR (2014) Differentiating capacities as a means to sustainable climate change adaptation. Glob Environ Chang 27:1–8Google Scholar
  17. Eakin H, York A, Aggarwal R, Waters S, Welch J, Rubin C, Smith-Heisters S, Bausch C, Anderies JM (2016) Cognitive and institutional influences on farmers’ adaptive capacity: Insights into barriers and opportunities for transformative change in central Arizona. Reg Env Change 16:801–814Google Scholar
  18. Ellis AW, Hawkins TW, Balling Jr. RC, Gober P (2008) Estimating future runoff levels for a semi-arid fluvial system in central Arizona, USA. Clim Res 35(3):227–239Google Scholar
  19. Engle NL (2011) Adaptive capacity and its assessment. Glob Environ Chang 21(2):647–656Google Scholar
  20. Engle NL (2013) The role of drought preparedness in building and mobilizing adaptive capacity in states and their community water systems. Clim Change 118(2):291–306Google Scholar
  21. Faugier J, Sargeant M (1997) Sampling hard to reach populations. J Adv Nurs 26(4):790–797Google Scholar
  22. Fleming A, Dowd AM, Gaillard E, Park S, Howden M (2015) “Climate change is the least of my worries”: Stress limitations on adaptive capacity. Rural Soc 24(1):24–41Google Scholar
  23. Gardezi M, Arbuckle J (2017) Spatially representing vulnerability to extreme rain events using Midwestern farmers’ objective and perceived attributes of adaptive capacity. Risk Anal;
  24. Glenn E (2011) The Economic Contributions of Verde Valley Winemaking. Prepared for/in conjunction with the Verde Valley Wine Consortium. Yavapai County Cooperative Extension, University of Arizona. Accessed 7 July 2017
  25. Grothmann T, Patt A (2005) Adaptive capacity and human cognition: The process of individual adaptation to climate change. Glob Environ Chang 15(3):199–213Google Scholar
  26. Gupta J, Termeer C, Klostermann J, Meijerink S, van den Brink M, Jong P, Nooteboom S, Bergsma E (2010) The adaptive capacity wheel: A method to assess the inherent characteristics of institutions to enable the adaptive capacity of society. Environ Sci Policy 13(6):459–471Google Scholar
  27. Hagerman SM (2016) Governing adaptation across scales: Hotspots and hesitancy in Pacific Northwest forests. Land Use Policy 52:306–315Google Scholar
  28. Hobson K, Niemeyer S (2011) Public responses to climate change: The role of deliberation in building capacity for adaptive action. Glob Environ Chang 21(3):957–971Google Scholar
  29. Howden SM, Soussana JF, Tubiello FN, Chhetri N, Dunlop M, Meinke H (2007) Adapting agriculture to climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci 104(50):19691–19696Google Scholar
  30. Jones L (2010) Overcoming social barriers to adaptation. Overseas Development Institute, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  31. Lal R, Delgado JA, Groffman PM, Millar N, Dell C, Rotz A (2011) Management to mitigate and adapt to climate change. J Soil Water Conserv 66(4):276–285Google Scholar
  32. Lengnick L (2015) Resilient agriculture: cultivating food systems for a changing climate. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BCGoogle Scholar
  33. Limbrunner J, Sheer D, Heberger M, Cohen M, Henderson J, Raucher B (2011) Policy Options for Water Management in the Verde Valley, Arizona. Prepared for The Nature ConservancyGoogle Scholar
  34. Lopez SM, Springer A (2002) Assessment of human influence on riparian change in the Verde Valley, Arizona. Fulfillment of Arizona Water Protection Fund grant, 98-057Google Scholar
  35. Lorenzoni I, Jordan A, Hulme M, Turner RK, O’Riordan T (2000) A co-evolutionary approach to climate change impact assessment: Part I. Integrating socio-economic and climate change scenarios. Glob Environ Chang 10(1):57–68Google Scholar
  36. Mahmoud MI, Gupta HV, Rajagopal S (2011) Scenario development for water resources planning and watershed management: Methodology and semi-arid region case study. Environ Modell Softw 26(7):873–885Google Scholar
  37. Marshall NA, Park S, Howden SM, Dowd AB, Jakku ES (2013) Climate change awareness is associated with enhanced adaptive capacity. Agr Syst 117:30–34Google Scholar
  38. Maxwell JA (2012) Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Sage publicationsGoogle Scholar
  39. McLeod E, Szuster B, Hinkel J, Tompkins EL, Marshall N Downing T, Wongbusarakum S, Patwardhan A, Hamza M, Anderson C, Bharwani S, Hansen L, Rubinoff P (2016). Conservation organizations need to consider adaptive capacity: why local input matters. Conservation Letters
  40. Melillo J, Richmond T, Yohe G (Eds) (2014) Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. US Global Change Research Program. Accessed 7 July 2017
  41. Milman A, Bunclark L, Conway D, Adger WN (2013) Assessment of institutional capacity to adapt to climate change in transboundary river basins. Clim Change 121:755–770. Google Scholar
  42. Moser SC, Ekstrom JA (2010) A framework to diagnose barriers to climate change adaptation. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107(51):22026–22031Google Scholar
  43. National Research Council (NRC) (2010) America’s Climate Choices. National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  44. NOAA National Centers for Environmental information (2018) Climate at a Glance: Divisional Time Series. Accessed 28 May 2018
  45. Polsky C, Easterling WE (2001) Adaptation to climate variability and change in the US great plains. Agric Ecosyst Environ 85(1):133–144. Google Scholar
  46. Postel S (2016) Two Arizona Vineyards Give Back to a River through a Voluntary Water Exchange. Water Currents- National Geographic. Accessed 6 July 2017
  47. Postel S, Reeve T (2017) Farmers, brewers, conservationists partner to keep Verde River flowing. Water Currents-National Geographic. Accessed 6 July 2017
  48. Russell-Sluchansky C (2014) Young Farmer Saves Water in Innovative Ways. News-National Geographic. Accessed 6 July 2017
  49. Ruth M, Coelho D, Karetnikov D (2007) The US economic impacts of climate change and the costs of inaction. Center for Integrative Environmental Research, University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  50. Serrat-Capdevila A, Valdes JB, Dominguez F, Rajagopal S (2013) Characterizing the water extremes of the new century in the US South-west: a comprehensive assessment from state-of-the-art climate model projection. Int J Water Resour D 29(2):152–171Google Scholar
  51. Smit B et al (2001) Adaptation to climate change in the context of sustainable development and equity. JJ McCarthy, OF Canziani (Eds) Climate Change 2001: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group III to the 3rd Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeGoogle Scholar
  52. Smit B, Wandel J (2006) Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Glob Environ Chang 16(3):282–292. Google Scholar
  53. Stuart D, Schewe RL (2016) Constrained Choice and Climate Change Mitigation in US Agriculture: Structural Barriers to a Climate Change Ethic. J Agric Environ Ethics 29(3):369–385Google Scholar
  54. Swanson D, Hiley J, Venema HD, Grosshans R (2009) Indicators of adaptive capacity to climate change for agriculture in the prairie region of Canada: An analysis based on statistics Canada’s census of agriculture. International Institute for Sustainable Development, Winnipeg, Working Paper for the Prairie Climate Resilience ProjectGoogle Scholar
  55. Takahashi B, Burnham M, Terracina-Hartman C, Sopchak AR, Selfa T (2016) Climate Change Perceptions of NY State Farmers: The Role of Risk Perceptions and Adaptive Capacity. Environ Manag 58(6):946–957Google Scholar
  56. Tellis WM (1997) Application of a Case Study Methodology. Qual Rep 3(3):1–19Google Scholar
  57. Tellman B, Yarde R, Wallace MG (1997) Arizona’s changing rivers: how people have affected the rivers. Water Resources Research Center, College of Agriculture, the University of ArizonaGoogle Scholar
  58. Trochim W (2006) The Research Methods Knowledge Base, 2nd Edition. Accessed 7 July 2017
  59. USDA (2012) Yavapai County Profile. Census of Agriculture. Accessed 7 July 2017
  60. Vasquez-Leon M (2009) Hispanic farmers and farmworkers: social networks, institutional exclusion, and climate vulnerability in southeastern Arizona. Am Anthropol 111(3):289–301Google Scholar
  61. Vasquez-Leon M, West CT, Finan TJ (2003) A comparative assessment of climate vulnerability: agriculture and ranching on both sides of the US–Mexico border. Glob Environ Chang 13:159–173Google Scholar
  62. Vincent K (2001) Uncertainty in adaptive capacity and the importance of scale. Glob Environ Chang 17:12–24Google Scholar
  63. Walker B, Holling CS, Carpenter SR, Kinzig A (2004) Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social-ecological systems. Ecol Soc 9(2):5Google Scholar
  64. Wilder M, Scott CA, Pablos NP, Varady RG, Garfin GM, McEvoy J (2010) Adapting across boundaries: climate change, social learning, and resilience in the U.S.–Mexico border region. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 100(4):917–928Google Scholar
  65. Wyatt CJW, O’Donnell FC, Springer AE (2014) Semi-arid aquifer responses to forest restoration treatments and climate change. Groundwater 53(2):207–216Google Scholar
  66. Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee (YCWAC) (2013) CYHWRMS Executive Summary. Accessed 7 July 2017
  67. Yin R (1984) Case study research: Design and methods, 1st edn. Sage Publishing, Beverly Hills, CAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rio Grande Phenology Trail and Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring ProgramBosque SchoolAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Sustainable Communities Program and School of Earth Sciences and Environmental SustainabilityNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA

Personalised recommendations