New framework for assessing adaptive capacity to multiple climatic and non-climatic stressors in small-scale fisheries

Authors: George Freduah (TBTI member), Pedro Fidelman Timothy F. Smith (TBTI member)

As climate change and other socio-economic stressors continue to impact coastal social-ecological systems, we need to deepen our knowledge of the capacity to adapt. Global environmental change research has generated several useful concepts and frameworks for understanding and assessing adaptive capacity to climate change impacts, but our ability to effectively integrate and use this wealth of knowledge to mobilise and build the needed adaptive capacity remains low. The authors build on the capitals and the vulnerability frameworks to develop a new framework to argue for how existing frameworks and concepts can be consolidated for assessing adaptive capacity, how adaptive capacity can be mobilised and the need to assess adaptive capacity in the context of multiple climatic and non-climatic stressors. The framework adds three important insights into the studies of adaptive capacity. First, it recognises that links among various forms of capital (components of adaptive capacity) are critical for mobilising, building or depleting adaptive capacity. Second, it explicitly shows adaptive capacity is better understood when assessed in the context of multiple climatic and non-climatic stressors because the impacts of climate change are bound to manifest in complex coupled human and social systems. Third, it highlights that knowledge of multiple interactions among stressors provides a strong explanation for tackling some inherent developmental issues with climate change adaptation plans and actions. Evidence from small-scale coastal fisheries of Ghana supports the framework’s assumptions and arguments.