Aligning Climate Change Adaptation Planning with Adaptive Governance: Lessons from Exeter, NH

Academic Article


  • AbstractAdaptive governance has been recognized as an integrative approach for analyzing the social, institutional, ecologic, and economic aspects of decision‐making to build resilience against climate change. Although closely aligned with adaptive co‐management and ecosystem management, adaptive governance is a distinct framework that explicitly focuses on decentralized decision‐making through social processes such as collaborative learning, networking, and the promotion of cross‐sectoral partnerships to enhance adaptive capacity. In this paper, we explore an ongoing engagement process for climate change adaptation planning in Exeter, New Hampshire, and its alignment with key principles of adaptive governance. Climate change poses multiple challenges to Exeter, including increased flooding, reduced low flows, water quality degradation, and associated threats to estuarine ecosystems and public health. Engagement strategies include community conversations, workshops, experiential activities, and a community advisory board comprised of different stakeholder representatives (Citizens' Working Group) collaborating with the scientific team on water resources modeling and scenario analysis. We present important lessons about conveying expectations and timeframes of technical modeling to participants, developing multiple forums for interaction between researchers and other stakeholders, and making climate change locally relevant to residents by drawing connections to the community's experiences, cultural memory, values, and upcoming decisions. This study contributes to the literature on adaptive governance and climate change adaptation by evaluating stakeholder involvement in a local institutional setting, an important arena where adaptation decisions must be deliberated. It is also among the first studies to evaluate the ways in which a climate change adaptation stakeholder engagement process aligns with adaptive governance principles, particularly through boundary objects and experiences.
  • Authors

  • Aytur, Semra
  • Hecht, Jory S
  • Kirshen, Paul
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • July 2015
  • Keywords

  • Integrated Water Resources Management
  • boundary objects
  • collaborative planning
  • community based participatory research
  • flooding
  • public health
  • resilience
  • transdisciplinary research
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 83
  • End Page

  • 98
  • Volume

  • 155
  • Issue

  • 1