Third Symposium on Policy and Socio-Economic Research


Adaptation through interaction: A case study from Alpine Shire, Victoria, Australia

Lee M. Tryhorn, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; and A. H. Lynch

Local community vulnerability to the impact of climate change depends on both the nature and extent of the impact (the risk) and how communities can respond (their adaptive capacity). An important barrier to effective adaptation to climate change is the extent to which effective community participation and a functioning democratic process can be brought to bear on the issue. We propose a participatory research method which embodies a “bottom-up” approach that focuses on communities of place and attends particularly to issues of context (that is, the specific attributes, vulnerabilities, strategies and values of the community in question). Using the conceptual and theoretical tools of the policy sciences, this study focuses on priorities identified by the residents of the Alpine Shire, an area in northern Victoria, Australia, that has borne the brunt of many extreme events in recent years.

The community has recognised a severe vulnerability to both fires and floods. The start of 2003 saw large areas of southeastern Australia ravaged by fire. The fires burned over a period of nearly 60 days and were immediately followed by storms and localised flash flooding that resulted in one fatality. An investigation of the meteorological and hydrological conditions resulting in this extreme event has been conducted. While the large-scale environment was conducive to developing thunderstorms, it has been found that fire-induced changes at the surface - blackening, drying and removal of vegetation - resulted in the development of a supercell thunderstorm that led to enhanced precipitation. The decrease in soil infiltration rates due to the fire further intensified the flood event. Analysis of the context of this event is intended to assist in emergency preparedness in the Alpine Shire. This approach integrates scientific and local knowledge to advance the community's common interest, and relies on learning from experience.

Poster Session 1, Policy and Socio-Economic Research Posters
Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 2:30 PM-4:00 PM, Exhibit Hall B

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