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Special Issue "Adaptation or Extinction"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2012)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Bruce E. Tonn (Website)

Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, P.O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 37831-6038, USA
Phone: 1-865-574-4041
Fax: +1 865 576 8646
Interests: energy policy; environmental policy; sustainability; foresight; futures analysis; decision making under uncertainty; technology assessment; energy program evaluation
Associate Editor
Dr. Donald G. MacGregor

President and Senior Scientist, MacGregor Bates, Inc., 1010 Villard Avenue, Cottage Grove, OR  97424, USA
Fax: +1 541 942 8041
Associate Editor
Ms. Dorian Stiefel

Department of Political Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, McClung Tower, Room 1001, Knoxville, TN 37996-0410, USA
Phone: +1 703 593 5755
Fax: +1 865 974 7037

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Change is inevitable. To be a sustainable system is to adapt. In other words, adaptation is the mechanism or process by which a system maintains sustainability. Failure to adapt threatens system viability. This special issue of Sustainability addresses this question: On balance, are the world’s most important systems adapting to become more sustainable or are the risks of their extinction increasing over time? This special issue will publish papers that describe specific adaptation successes and failures, and syntheses of trends which may describe whether important systems are heading toward successful adaptation or extinction. Systems under study could range from human civilizations to ecosystems. Papers that address the intersection between human systems adaptations and ecosystems adaptations are encouraged, as are papers that discuss limitations and barriers to adaptation, and characteristics of social/economic and environmental systems that facilitate sustainable adaptation. It is a goal of this special issue to publish papers that explore these issues through multiple perspectives (e.g., social/cultural/political versus genetic/species adaptation, individual versus group adaptation). Papers that explore and describe adaptation and extinction through modeling exercises and simulation in virtual environments are encouraged. This special issue will not publish papers that only provide technical descriptions of models, algorithms, data analysis methods, and/or virtual environments or merely describe enhancements thereof.

Dr. Bruce E. Tonn
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • adaptation
  • extinction
  • sustainable system(s)
  • system viability
  • modeling and simulation
  • risks of extinction

Published Papers (17 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review, Other

Open AccessArticle Adaptation Turning Points in River Restoration? The Rhine Salmon Case
Sustainability 2013, 5(6), 2288-2304; doi:10.3390/su5062288
Received: 1 April 2013 / Revised: 4 April 2013 / Accepted: 15 May 2013 / Published: 24 May 2013
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (871 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Bringing a sustainable population of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) back into the Rhine, after the species became extinct in the 1950s, is an important environmental ambition with efforts made both by governments and civil society. Our analysis finds a significant [...] Read more.
Bringing a sustainable population of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) back into the Rhine, after the species became extinct in the 1950s, is an important environmental ambition with efforts made both by governments and civil society. Our analysis finds a significant risk of failure of salmon reintroduction because of projected increases in water temperatures in a changing climate. This suggests a need to rethink the current salmon reintroduction ambitions or to start developing adaptive action. The paper shows that the moment at which salmon reintroduction may fail due to climate change can only be approximated because of inherent uncertainties in the interaction between salmon and its environment. The added value of the assessment presented in this paper is that it provides researchers with a set of questions that are useful from a policy perspective (by focusing on the feasibility of a concrete policy ambition under climate change). Thus, it offers opportunities to supply policy makers with practical insight in the relevance of climate change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
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Open AccessArticle Coping with Change: A Closer Look at the Underlying Attributes of Change and the Individual Response to Unstable Environments
Sustainability 2013, 5(5), 1764-1788; doi:10.3390/su5051764
Received: 20 March 2013 / Revised: 2 April 2013 / Accepted: 17 April 2013 / Published: 25 April 2013
PDF Full-text (701 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Although the study of environmental change has long been of academic interest, the effects of change have become a much more pressing concern in the past few decades due to the often disruptive effect of human expansion and innovation. Researchers from many [...] Read more.
Although the study of environmental change has long been of academic interest, the effects of change have become a much more pressing concern in the past few decades due to the often disruptive effect of human expansion and innovation. Researchers from many fields contribute to understanding our footprint on the natural world, problems we cause, and strategies we can employ to protect key species and ecosystems. Unfortunately, environmental change and its consequences are often studied without an awareness of the inherent attributes of the changes. As a result, the relevance of new advances in this field may be easily missed or misunderstood, and existing knowledge is not optimally applied. In this paper, we aim to facilitate the multi-disciplinary comparison of studies on environmental change, by offering a meta-level perspective on the process of change from the point of view of the individual animal. We propose an inclusive definition of change that can be applied across contexts, in which we take our understanding of “change” from an event to an interaction between a physical occurrence and an individual’s state. Furthermore, we discuss key event- and individual-based attributes of change, their relevance in today’s changing world, and how they relate to animals’ available behavioural, physiological and cross-generational responses. We hope that by uncovering the underlying fundamental (or structure) of change, fellow scientists may better share their experience and knowledge gained from years of studying individual species and situations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle Impacts of Climatic Hazards on the Small Wetland Ecosystems (ponds): Evidence from Some Selected Areas of Coastal Bangladesh
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1510-1521; doi:10.3390/su5041510
Received: 9 February 2013 / Revised: 26 March 2013 / Accepted: 27 March 2013 / Published: 3 April 2013
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (773 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Most climate related hazards in Bangladesh are linked to water. The climate vulnerable poor—the poorest and most marginalized communities living in remote villages along Bangladesh’s coastal zone that are vulnerable to climate change impacts and who possess low adaptive capacity are most [...] Read more.
Most climate related hazards in Bangladesh are linked to water. The climate vulnerable poor—the poorest and most marginalized communities living in remote villages along Bangladesh’s coastal zone that are vulnerable to climate change impacts and who possess low adaptive capacity are most affected by lack of access to safe water sources. Many climate vulnerable poor households depend on small isolated wetlands (ponds) for daily drinking water needs and other domestic requirements, including cooking, bathing and washing. Similarly, the livelihoods of many of these households also depend on access to ponds due to activities of small-scale irrigation for rice farming, vegetable farming and home gardening. This is particularly true for those poorest and most marginalized communities living in Satkhira, one of the most vulnerable coastal districts in south-west Bangladesh. These households rely on pond water for vegetable farming and home gardening, especially during winter months. However, these pond water sources are highly vulnerable to climate change induced hazards, including flooding, drought, salinity intrusion, cyclone and storm surges, erratic rainfall patterns and variations in temperature. Cyclone Sidr and Cyclone Aila, which hit Bangladesh in 2007 and 2009 respectively, led to a significant number of such ponds being inundated with saline water. This impacted upon and resulted in wide scale implications for climate vulnerable poor households, including reduced availability of safe drinking water, and safe water for health and hygiene practices and livelihood activities. Those households living in remote areas and who are most affected by these climate impacts are dependent on water being supplied through aid, as well as travelling long distances to collect safe water for drinking purposes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle Adaptation to and Recovery from Global Catastrophe
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1461-1479; doi:10.3390/su5041461
Received: 20 January 2013 / Revised: 28 January 2013 / Accepted: 19 March 2013 / Published: 28 March 2013
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (718 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Global catastrophes, such as nuclear war, pandemics and ecological collapse threaten the sustainability of human civilization. To date, most work on global catastrophes has focused on preventing the catastrophes, neglecting what happens to any catastrophe survivors. To address this gap in the [...] Read more.
Global catastrophes, such as nuclear war, pandemics and ecological collapse threaten the sustainability of human civilization. To date, most work on global catastrophes has focused on preventing the catastrophes, neglecting what happens to any catastrophe survivors. To address this gap in the literature, this paper discusses adaptation to and recovery from global catastrophe. The paper begins by discussing the importance of global catastrophe adaptation and recovery, noting that successful adaptation/recovery could have value on even astronomical scales. The paper then discusses how the adaptation/recovery could proceed and makes connections to several lines of research. Research on resilience theory is considered in detail and used to develop a new method for analyzing the environmental and social stressors that global catastrophe survivors would face. This method can help identify options for increasing survivor resilience and promoting successful adaptation and recovery. A key point is that survivors may exist in small isolated communities disconnected from global trade and, thus, must be able to survive and rebuild on their own. Understanding the conditions facing isolated survivors can help promote successful adaptation and recovery. That said, the processes of global catastrophe adaptation and recovery are highly complex and uncertain; further research would be of great value. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle The Climate Adaptation Frontier
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1011-1035; doi:10.3390/su5031011
Received: 5 November 2012 / Revised: 7 January 2013 / Accepted: 6 February 2013 / Published: 6 March 2013
Cited by 17 | PDF Full-text (1117 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Climate adaptation has emerged as a mainstream risk management strategy for assisting in maintaining socio-ecological systems within the boundaries of a safe operating space. Yet, there are limits to the ability of systems to adapt. Here, we introduce the concept of an [...] Read more.
Climate adaptation has emerged as a mainstream risk management strategy for assisting in maintaining socio-ecological systems within the boundaries of a safe operating space. Yet, there are limits to the ability of systems to adapt. Here, we introduce the concept of an “adaptation frontier”, which is defined as a socio-ecological system’s transitional adaptive operating space between safe and unsafe domains. A number of driving forces are responsible for determining the sustainability of systems on the frontier. These include path dependence, adaptation/development deficits, values conflicts and discounting of future loss and damage. The cumulative implications of these driving forces are highly uncertain. Nevertheless, the fact that a broad range of systems already persist at the edge of their frontiers suggests a high likelihood that some limits will eventually be exceeded. The resulting system transformation is likely to manifest as anticipatory modification of management objectives or loss and damage. These outcomes vary significantly with respect to their ethical implications. Successful navigation of the adaptation frontier will necessitate new paradigms of risk governance to elicit knowledge that encourages reflexive reevaluation of societal values that enable or constrain sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle New Levels of Climate Adaptation Policy: Analyzing the Institutional Interplay in the Baltic Sea Region
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 256-275; doi:10.3390/su5010256
Received: 31 October 2012 / Revised: 8 January 2013 / Accepted: 14 January 2013 / Published: 18 January 2013
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (216 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
International policy development and expected climate change impacts such as flooding, landslides, and the extinction of sensitive species have forced countries around the Baltic Sea to begin working on national climate adaptation policies. Simultaneously, the EU is building both a central and [...] Read more.
International policy development and expected climate change impacts such as flooding, landslides, and the extinction of sensitive species have forced countries around the Baltic Sea to begin working on national climate adaptation policies. Simultaneously, the EU is building both a central and a macro-regional Baltic Sea-wide adaptation strategy to support national policy developments. However, it yet remains unclear how these EU strategies will complement each other or national policies. This article analyzes the constraints and opportunities presented by this new institutional interplay and discusses the potential of the forthcoming EU strategies to support national policy. It does so by mapping how adaptation is institutionalized in two case countries, Sweden and Finland, and is organized in the two EU approaches. The vertical institutional interplay between scales is analyzed in terms of three factors: competence, capacity, and compatibility. Results indicate institutional constraints related to: risks of policy complexity for sub-national actors, an unclear relationship between the two EU approaches, an overly general approach to targeting contextualized climate change vulnerabilities, and a general lack of strategies to steer adaptation. However, there are also opportunities linked to an anticipated increased commitment to the national management of adaptation, especially related to biodiversity issues. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle Cumulative Pressures on Sustainable Livelihoods: Coastal Adaptation in the Mekong Delta
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 228-241; doi:10.3390/su5010228
Received: 9 November 2012 / Revised: 11 January 2013 / Accepted: 14 January 2013 / Published: 17 January 2013
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (315 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Many coastal areas throughout the world are at risk from sea level rise and the increased intensity of extreme events such as storm surge and flooding. Simultaneously, many areas are also experiencing significant socio-economic challenges associated with rural-urban transitions, population growth, and [...] Read more.
Many coastal areas throughout the world are at risk from sea level rise and the increased intensity of extreme events such as storm surge and flooding. Simultaneously, many areas are also experiencing significant socio-economic challenges associated with rural-urban transitions, population growth, and increased consumption resulting from improving gross regional product. Within this context we explore the viability of proposed adaptation pathways in Soc Trang province, Vietnam — an area of the Mekong Delta experiencing cumulative pressures on coastal livelihoods. A participatory workshop and interviews, using a combination of systems thinking and futures techniques, revealed a shared goal of sustainable livelihoods, which provides an integrated and systemic focus for coastal adaptation strategies. Emphasizing sustainable livelihoods is less likely to lead to maladaptation because stakeholders consciously seek to avoid optimizing particular system elements at the expense of others — and thus engage in broader decision-making frameworks supportive of social-ecological resilience. However, the broad ambit required for sustainable livelihoods is not supported by governance frameworks that have focused on protective strategies (e.g., dyke building, strengthening and raising, to continue and expand agriculture and aquaculture production) at the expense of developing a diverse suite of adaptation strategies, which may lead to path dependencies and an ultimate reduction in adaptive capacity for system transformation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle The North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership: A Science-Management Collaboration for Responding to Climate Change
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 136-159; doi:10.3390/su5010136
Received: 31 October 2012 / Revised: 21 December 2012 / Accepted: 27 December 2012 / Published: 8 January 2013
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (843 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service (NPS) have highlighted climate change as an agency priority and issued direction to administrative units for responding to climate change. In response, the USFS and NPS initiated the North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership (NCAP) [...] Read more.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service (NPS) have highlighted climate change as an agency priority and issued direction to administrative units for responding to climate change. In response, the USFS and NPS initiated the North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership (NCAP) in 2010. The goals of the NCAP were to build an inclusive partnership, increase climate change awareness, assess vulnerability, and develop science-based adaptation strategies to reduce these vulnerabilities. The NCAP expanded previous science-management partnerships on federal lands to a larger, more ecologically and geographically complex region and extended the approach to a broader range of stakeholders. The NCAP focused on two national forests and two national parks in the North Cascades Range, Washington (USA), a total land area of 2.4 million ha, making it the largest science-management partnership of its kind. The NCAP assessed climate change vulnerability for four resource sectors (hydrology and access; vegetation and ecological disturbance; wildlife; and fish) and developed adaptation options for each sector. The NCAP process has proven to be a successful approach for implementing climate change adaptation across a region and can be emulated by other land management agencies in North America and beyond. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle Climate and Food Production: Understanding Vulnerability from Past Trends in Africa’s Sudan-Sahel
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 52-71; doi:10.3390/su5010052
Received: 17 September 2012 / Revised: 6 December 2012 / Accepted: 14 December 2012 / Published: 27 December 2012
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1464 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Just how influential is rainfall on agricultural production in the Sudan-Sahel of Africa? And, is there evidence that support for small-scale farming can reduce the vulnerability of crop yields to rainfall in these sensitive agro-ecological zones? These questions are explored based on [...] Read more.
Just how influential is rainfall on agricultural production in the Sudan-Sahel of Africa? And, is there evidence that support for small-scale farming can reduce the vulnerability of crop yields to rainfall in these sensitive agro-ecological zones? These questions are explored based on a case study from Cameroon’s Sudan-Sahel region. Climate data for 20 years and crop production data for six major food crops for the same years are used to find patterns of correlation over this time period. Results show a distinction of three periods of climatic influence of agriculture: one period before 1989, another between 1990 and 1999 and the last from 2000 to 2004. The analysis reveals that, while important in setting the enabling biophysical environment for food crop cultivation, the influence of rainfall in agriculture can be diluted by proactive policies that support food production. Proactive policies also reduce the impact of agriculturally relevant climatic shocks, such as droughts on food crop yields over the time-series. These findings emphasize the extent of vulnerability of food crop production to rainfall variations among small-holder farmers in these agro-ecological zones and reinforce the call for the proactive engagement of relevant institutions and support services in assisting the efforts of small-scale food producers in Africa’s Sudan-Sahel. The implications of climate variability on agriculture are discussed within the context of food security with particular reference to Africa’s Sudan-Sahel. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessCommunication General Resilience to Cope with Extreme Events
Sustainability 2012, 4(12), 3248-3259; doi:10.3390/su4123248
Received: 5 October 2012 / Accepted: 14 November 2012 / Published: 28 November 2012
Cited by 40 | PDF Full-text (177 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Resilience to specified kinds of disasters is an active area of research and practice. However, rare or unprecedented disturbances that are unusually intense or extensive require a more broad-spectrum type of resilience. General resilience is the capacity of social-ecological systems to adapt [...] Read more.
Resilience to specified kinds of disasters is an active area of research and practice. However, rare or unprecedented disturbances that are unusually intense or extensive require a more broad-spectrum type of resilience. General resilience is the capacity of social-ecological systems to adapt or transform in response to unfamiliar, unexpected and extreme shocks. Conditions that enable general resilience include diversity, modularity, openness, reserves, feedbacks, nestedness, monitoring, leadership, and trust. Processes for building general resilience are an emerging and crucially important area of research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle An Exergy-Based Model for Population Dynamics: Adaptation, Mutualism, Commensalism and Selective Extinction
Sustainability 2012, 4(10), 2611-2629; doi:10.3390/su4102611
Received: 3 August 2012 / Revised: 23 September 2012 / Accepted: 2 October 2012 / Published: 15 October 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (525 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Following the critical analysis of the concept of “sustainability”, developed on the basis of exergy considerations in previous works, an analysis of possible species “behavior” is presented and discussed in this paper. Once more, we make use of one single axiom: that resource [...] Read more.
Following the critical analysis of the concept of “sustainability”, developed on the basis of exergy considerations in previous works, an analysis of possible species “behavior” is presented and discussed in this paper. Once more, we make use of one single axiom: that resource consumption (material and immaterial) can be quantified solely in terms of exergy flows. This assumption leads to a model of population dynamics that is applied here to describe the general behavior of interacting populations. The resulting equations are similar to the Lotka-Volterra ones, but more strongly coupled and intrinsically non-linear: as such, their solution space is topologically richer than those of classical prey-predator models. In this paper, we address an interesting specific problem in population dynamics: if a species assumes a commensalistic behavior, does it gain an evolutionary advantage? And, what is the difference, in terms of the access to the available exergy resources, between mutualism and commensalism? The model equations can be easily rearranged to accommodate both types of behavior, and thus only a brief discussion is devoted to this facet of the problem. The solution space is explored in the simplest case of two interacting populations: the model results in population curves in phase space that can satisfactorily explain the evolutionistic advantages and drawbacks of either behavior and, more importantly, identify the presence or absence of a “sustainable” solution in which both species survive. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle How to Overcome the Slow Death of Intercropping in the North China Plain
Sustainability 2012, 4(10), 2550-2565; doi:10.3390/su4102550
Received: 30 August 2012 / Revised: 21 September 2012 / Accepted: 25 September 2012 / Published: 3 October 2012
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (2383 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Intercropping has a strong potential to counteract the severe degradation of arable land in the North China Plain (NCP). However, a rapid decline of intercropping can be observed in the last decades. The present paper investigates the reason for this development and [...] Read more.
Intercropping has a strong potential to counteract the severe degradation of arable land in the North China Plain (NCP). However, a rapid decline of intercropping can be observed in the last decades. The present paper investigates the reason for this development and suggests solutions on how to adjust intercropping systems to fit modern agriculture. Firstly, the developments of socioeconomic conditions for farming were assessed, analyzing the statistical yearbooks of the seven provinces of the North China Plain. Secondly, a survey was conducted in the study region to understand the current state and future of intercropping systems. The investigations revealed that, due to limited off-farm income possibilities in the past, intercropping has been a viable solution to intensively use the limited land resources per farm household. However, a shift of rural laborers into other sectors has recently been observed. Thus, decreasing importance of income from agriculture and increasing labor costs are heralding the slow death of labor-intensive intercropping systems. Two possible solutions are discussed in the paper. Either the traditional row-intercropping systems can be transformed into strip-intercropping systems that can be mechanized using existing machinery; or, new machinery has to be developed that enables the mechanization of the traditional row-intercropping systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
Open AccessArticle A Climate Change Adaptation Planning Process for Low-Lying, Communities Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise
Sustainability 2012, 4(9), 2176-2208; doi:10.3390/su4092176
Received: 5 June 2012 / Revised: 26 July 2012 / Accepted: 21 August 2012 / Published: 11 September 2012
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (9597 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
While the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, provides guidelines for flood risk management, it is local governments’ responsibility to delineate their own flood vulnerability, assess their risk, and integrate these with planning policies to implement adaptive action. However, barriers such as [...] Read more.
While the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, provides guidelines for flood risk management, it is local governments’ responsibility to delineate their own flood vulnerability, assess their risk, and integrate these with planning policies to implement adaptive action. However, barriers such as the lack of locally specific data and public perceptions about adaptation options mean that local governments must address the need for adaptation planning within a context of scientific uncertainty, while building public support for difficult choices on flood-related climate policy and action. This research demonstrates a process to model, visualize and evaluate potential flood impacts and adaptation options for the community of Delta, in Metro Vancouver, across economic, social and environmental perspectives. Visualizations in 2D and 3D, based on hydrological modeling of breach events for existing dike infrastructure, future sea level rise and storm surges, are generated collaboratively, together with future adaptation scenarios assessed against quantitative and qualitative indicators. This ‘visioning package’ is being used with staff and a citizens’ Working Group to assess the performance, policy implications and social acceptability of the adaptation strategies. Recommendations based on the experience of the initiative are provided that can facilitate sustainable future adaptation actions and decision-making in Delta and other jurisdictions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
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Open AccessArticle The Race for Evolutionary Success
Sustainability 2012, 4(8), 1787-1805; doi:10.3390/su4081787
Received: 4 July 2012 / Revised: 25 July 2012 / Accepted: 8 August 2012 / Published: 14 August 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (439 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The Earth appears to be at the beginning of sixth massive species extinction. This paper balances a review of the forces threatening species survival with a comprehensive scan of factors that could act as counterweights. These factors could lead to four types [...] Read more.
The Earth appears to be at the beginning of sixth massive species extinction. This paper balances a review of the forces threatening species survival with a comprehensive scan of factors that could act as counterweights. These factors could lead to four types of evolution—cultural, regulatory, ecological, and technological—that could individually or in combination avert massive species extinction if humans implement solutions faster than new problems arise. Implications and future research opportunities are also explored. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)

Review

Jump to: Research, Other

Open AccessReview Adapt or Perish: A Review of Planning Approaches for Adaptation under Deep Uncertainty
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 955-979; doi:10.3390/su5030955
Received: 21 November 2012 / Revised: 28 January 2013 / Accepted: 31 January 2013 / Published: 4 March 2013
Cited by 58 | PDF Full-text (744 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
There is increasing interest in long-term plans that can adapt to changing situations under conditions of deep uncertainty. We argue that a sustainable plan should not only achieve economic, environmental, and social objectives, but should be robust and able to be adapted [...] Read more.
There is increasing interest in long-term plans that can adapt to changing situations under conditions of deep uncertainty. We argue that a sustainable plan should not only achieve economic, environmental, and social objectives, but should be robust and able to be adapted over time to (unforeseen) future conditions. Large numbers of papers dealing with robustness and adaptive plans have begun to appear, but the literature is fragmented. The papers appear in disparate journals, and deal with a wide variety of policy domains. This paper (1) describes and compares a family of related conceptual approaches to designing a sustainable plan, and (2) describes several computational tools supporting these approaches. The conceptual approaches all have their roots in an approach to long-term planning called Assumption-Based Planning. Guiding principles for the design of a sustainable adaptive plan are: explore a wide variety of relevant uncertainties, connect short-term targets to long-term goals over time, commit to short-term actions while keeping options open, and continuously monitor the world and take actions if necessary. A key computational tool across the conceptual approaches is a fast, simple (policy analysis) model that is used to make large numbers of runs, in order to explore the full range of uncertainties and to identify situations in which the plan would fail. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
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Open AccessReview Extinction or Survival? Behavioral Flexibility in Response to Environmental Change in the African Striped Mouse Rhabdomys
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 163-186; doi:10.3390/su5010163
Received: 29 October 2012 / Revised: 2 January 2013 / Accepted: 4 January 2013 / Published: 14 January 2013
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (774 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The rapid rate of anthropogenic-related climate change is expected to severely impact ecosystems and their constituent organisms, leading to mass extinction. A rapid adaptive response of animals to such change could be due to reversible phenotypic flexibility, including behavioral flexibility. Our model, [...] Read more.
The rapid rate of anthropogenic-related climate change is expected to severely impact ecosystems and their constituent organisms, leading to mass extinction. A rapid adaptive response of animals to such change could be due to reversible phenotypic flexibility, including behavioral flexibility. Our model, the African striped mouse Rhabdomys, is a small rodent widely distributed in southern Africa. The desert-living species R. pumilio displays social flexibility, whereby individuals switch their social organization in response to prevailing conditions, potentially allowing for persistence in rapidly changing environments. Individuals of the species from the moist grasslands (R. dilectus) show some flexible traits, but opportunities to utilize this potential are apparently not realized. The climate in southern Africa is predicted to become drier, making both desert and grassland species vulnerable to environmental change. Based on realized or potential social flexibility in striped mice, we provide three (not mutually exclusive) scenarios that consider: (i) extinction of the desert species as its habitat changes; (ii) range expansion and utilization of pre-existing adaptations of the desert species to displace the current grassland species; and (iii) grassland species exploiting their potential flexibility (behavioral adaptation) and surviving in their current habitat. Behavioral flexibility is costly but could allow species to persist in rapidly changing environments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)

Other

Jump to: Research, Review

Open AccessOpinion Dynamics of Change in Human-Driven and Natural Systems: Fast Forward, Slow Motion, Same Movie? A Case Study from Plant Protection
Sustainability 2012, 4(3), 384-393; doi:10.3390/su4030384
Received: 3 January 2012 / Revised: 23 February 2012 / Accepted: 5 March 2012 / Published: 14 March 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (176 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Evolutionary biology and evolutionary ecology deal with change in species and ecosystems over time, and propose mechanisms to explain and predict these. In particular, they look for generic elements that will drive any organism or phylum to adaptive changes or to extinction. [...] Read more.
Evolutionary biology and evolutionary ecology deal with change in species and ecosystems over time, and propose mechanisms to explain and predict these. In particular, they look for generic elements that will drive any organism or phylum to adaptive changes or to extinction. This paper, using examples from the field of plant protection against pests and diseases, shows that the patterns of change observed in natural and in human-driven systems are comparable, and proposes that their similarities result from the same mechanisms operating at different paces. Human-driven systems can thus be seen simply as ‘fast-forward’ versions of natural systems, making them tractable tools to test and predict elements from evolutionary theory. Conversely, the convergence between natural and human-driven systems opens opportunities for a more widespread use of evolutionary theory when analyzing and optimizing any human-driven system, or predicting its adaptability to changing conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)

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