Redefining climate change maladaptation using a values-based approach in forests.

Published online
01 Sep 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Findlater, K. & Hagerman, S. & Kozak, R. & Gukova, V.
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Publication language
British Columbia & Canada


Climate change adaptation can have unexpected and detrimental effects, typically conceptualized as maladaptation and narrowly defined in relation to climatic hazards and climate vulnerability. We revisit this narrow framing of maladaptation using a deliberative risk analysis method in 16 focus groups across British Columbia, Canada, where forests are crucial to social, economic and environmental well-being. By analysing emergent logics of support and opposition around genomics-based assisted migration as an adaptation strategy in forests, we identify four sources of potential maladaptation in this context: technical failure, opportunity cost, path dependence and the too-narrow framing of adaptation. Combined, these suggest that maladaptation is also too narrowly conceptualized, reflecting an obsolete definition of adaptation as rational adjustment to climatic hazards. Rather than being a failure of adaptation, per se, we argue that maladaptation comprises climate-adaptive policies or actions that, in a broader frame, threaten the very values that decision-makers ostensibly seek to protect and enhance.

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