Navigating climate crises in the Great Barrier Reef

Barnes, Michele L., Datta, Amber, Morris, Sheriden, and Zethoven, Imogen (2022) Navigating climate crises in the Great Barrier Reef. Global Environmental Change, 74. 102494.

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A dramatic escalation of extreme climate events is challenging the capacity of environmental governance regimes to sustain and improve ecosystem outcomes. It has been argued that actors within adaptive governance regimes can help to steer environmental systems toward sustainability in times of crisis. Yet there is little empirical evidence of how acute climate crises are navigated by actors operating within adaptive governance regimes, and the factors that influence their responses. Here, we qualitatively assessed the actions key governance actors took in response to back-to-back mass coral bleaching – an extreme climate event – of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017, and explored their perceptions of barriers and catalysts to these responses. This research was, in part, a product of collaboration and knowledge co-production with Great Barrier Reef governance actors aimed at improving responses to climate crises in the region. We found five major categories of activity that actors engaged with in the wake of recurrent mass coral bleaching: assessing the scale and extent of bleaching, sharing information, communicating bleaching to the public, building local resilience, and addressing global threats. These actions were both catalyzed and hindered by a range of factors that fall within different domains of adaptive capacity; such as assets, social organization, and agency. We discuss the implications of our findings as they relate to existing research on adaptive capacity and adaptive governance. We conclude by coalescing insights from our interviews and a participant engagement process to highlight four key ways in which the ability of governance actors, and the Great Barrier Reef governance regime more broadly, can be better prepared for, and more effectively respond to extreme climate events. Our research provides empirical insight into how crises are experienced by governance actors in a large-scale environmental system, potentially providing lessons for similar systems across the globe.

Item ID: 74498
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-9495
Keywords: Adaptive capacity, Climate change, Coral bleaching, Environmental governance, Stakeholder engagement
Copyright Information: © 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DE190101583, ARC CE140100020
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2022 00:23
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 20%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 40%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 40%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190102 Ecosystem adaptation to climate change @ 100%
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