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Developing signals to trigger adaptation to sea-level rise

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posted on 2021-04-01, 04:48 authored by SA Stephens, RG Bell, Judith LawrenceJudith Lawrence
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. Dynamic adaptive policy pathways (DAPP) is emerging as a 'fit-for-purpose' method for climate-change adaptation planning to address widening future uncertainty and long planning timeframes. A key component of DAPP is to monitor indicators of change such as flooding and storm events, which can trigger timely adaptive actions (change pathway/behavior) ahead of thresholds. Signals and triggers are needed to support DAPP - the signal provides early warning of the emergence of the trigger (decision-point), and the trigger initiates the process to change pathway before a harmful adaptation-threshold is reached. We demonstrate a new approach to designing signals and triggers using the case of increased flooding as sea level continues to rise. The flooding frequency is framed in terms of probable timing of several events reaching a specific height threshold within a set monitoring period. This framing is well suited to adaptive planning for different hazards, because it allows the period over which threshold exceedances are monitored to be specified, and thus allows action before adaptation-thresholds are reached, while accounting for the potential range of timing and providing a probability of premature warning, or of triggering adaptation too late. For our New Zealand sea level case study, we expect early signals to be observed in 10 year monitoring periods beginning 2021. Some urgency is therefore required to begin the assessment, planning and community engagement required to develop adaptive plans and associated signals and triggers for monitoring. Worldwide, greater urgency is required at tide-dominated sites than those adapted to large storm-surges. Triggers can be designed with confidence that a change in behavior pathway (e.g. relocating communities) will be triggered before an adaptation-threshold occurs. However, it is difficult to avoid the potential for premature adaptation. Therefore, political, social, economic, or cultural signals are also needed to complement the signals and triggers based on coastal-hazard considerations alone.


Preferred citation

Stephens, S. A., Bell, R. G. & Lawrence, J. (2018). Developing signals to trigger adaptation to sea-level rise. Environmental Research Letters, 13(10), 104004-104004.

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Environmental Research Letters





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IOP Publishing

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ARTN 104004