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Environ Manage. 2014 Oct;54(4):700-19. doi: 10.1007/s00267-014-0254-6. Epub 2014 Mar 20.

Adaptation in practice: how managers of nature conservation areas in eastern england are responding to climate change.

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  • 1Natural England, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR, UK,


Although good general principles for climate change adaptation in conservation have been developed, it is proving a challenge to translate them into more detailed recommendations for action. To improve our understanding of what adaptation might involve in practice, we investigated how the managers of conservation areas in eastern England are considering climate change. We used a written questionnaire and semi-structured interviews to collect information from managers of a range of different conservation areas. Topics investigated include the impacts of climate change perceived to be of the greatest importance; adaptation goals being set; management actions being carried out to achieve these goals; sources of information used; and perceived barriers to taking action. We identified major themes and issues that were apparent across the sites studied. Specifically, we found ways in which adaptation had been informed by past experience; different strategies relating to whether to accept or resist change; approaches for coping with more variable conditions; ways of taking a large-scale approach and managing sites as networks; some practical examples of aspects of adaptive management; and examples of the role that other sectors can play in both constraining and increasing a conservation area's capacity to adapt. We discuss the relevance of these findings to the growing discussion in conservation about identifying adaptation pathways for different conservation areas and a potential progression from a focus on resilience and incremental change to embracing "transformation." Though adaptation will be place-specific, we believe these findings provide useful lessons for future action in both England and other countries.

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