Incorporating Social and Ecological Adaptive Capacity into Vulnerability Assessments and Management Decisions for Biodiversity Conservation

Brian Petersen, Clare Aslan, Diana Stuart, Paul Beier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

2 Scopus citations


The ability to respond to the challenges posed by climate change depends on the adaptive capacities of social and ecological systems. However, the term adaptive capacity is ill defined, and applications often ignore social dimensions. Furthermore, the dominant frameworks conceptualizing adaptive capacity terminate with a vulnerability assessment, without considering how such assessments help inform decisions to undertake adaptation actions. We propose a framework that links social and ecological adaptive capacity to conservation decisions. We illustrate our framework in the context of the Sky Islands ecoregion of the southwestern United States. Supporting a transdisciplinary approach, we outline four recommendations for incorporating social and ecological adaptive capacity into adaptation decisions that include convening key actors, the coproduction of science, and ultimately providing a means for decision-makers to learn from adaptation efforts. These measures to better define and leverage social and ecological adaptive capacity will support conservation decision-making in a world of rapid socioecological change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-380
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018



  • Sky Islands
  • adaptive capacity
  • biodiversity conservation
  • climate change
  • transdisciplinary research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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