Challenges of climate change in tropical basins: vulnerability of eco-agrosystems and human populations

Abstract

Climate change impacts are already happening through the world, and it is now clear that there is the need for an adaptive response from global institutions down to the local level. Reducing vulnerability to cope with climate variability might be more challenging in tropical countries than in North America or Europe. The ten papers of this special issue were presented during the Adaptclim conference that was held by the Sinergia Project, the CLARIS LPB project, and the GeoData Institute in Asunción, Paraguay, in 2010. All papers, except one regarding the Brahmaputra Basin in South Asia, present studies from South America. These studies are first contextualized geographically and then are related one to another by a simplified vulnerability concept linking climate stress to sensitivity and adaptive capacity of natural and human systems. One half of the papers focus on actual or future climate change and the present-day causes of the vulnerability of natural and agrosystems. Droughts are and will be the main source of stress for agriculture in South America. Increasing fragmentation of forest of the center of this continent is aggravating their vulnerability to dry spells. Another half of the studies of this special issue deal with the adaptive capacity human populations to system perturbations produced or enhanced by climate change. The studies point out inclusion of traditional knowledge and involvement of local actors in their own vulnerability assessment to increase adaptive capacity. These elements of climate justice, giving voice to those less responsible for carbon emissions but bearing their most severe consequences, allow the particular needs of a community to be considered and can direct adaptation policy toward preserving or rebuilding their specific capabilities under threat from climate change. The special issue also made clear that a basin analysis of the climate change problem could provide information, results, and methods more readily of use for the local population and decision makers.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank the Pantanal Research Center (CPP), the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Innovation (MCT&I), and the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq), as well as Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, WWF-Brazil, and TNC for supporting the Sinergia project and the Adpatclim conference. Special thanks are addressed to Institut de Recherche pour le Développement for supporting Dr. Jean-Philippe Boulanger’s investigations from 2007 to March 2013. We also wish to thank the BRAHMATWINN project lead by Prof. Wolfgang Flugel of FSU, Germany for the Brahmaputra Basin component of the project.

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Correspondence to Pierre Girard.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “Climate change and adaptation in tropical basins” edited by Pierre Girard, Craig Hutton, and Jean-Phillipe Boulanger.

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Girard, P., Boulanger, JP. & Hutton, C. Challenges of climate change in tropical basins: vulnerability of eco-agrosystems and human populations. Climatic Change 127, 1–13 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1241-x

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Keywords

  • Adaptive Capacity
  • Human Development Index
  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Institutional Response
  • Climate Justice