Adaptive capacity

An integrative approach to study and promote natural hazards adaptive capacity: a case studyof two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico

LÓPEZ-MARRERO, T. (2010), An integrative approach to study and promote natural hazards adaptive capacity: a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico. The Geographical Journal, 176: 150–163. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2010.00353.x

Abstract: 
capacity to natural hazards of exposed populations. This paper analyses the strategies of adjustment implemented by members of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico, and discusses how the adoption of these strategies and other factors could influence future adaptive capacity and vulnerability to floods. Semi-structured interviews with community members from different resource endowment groups were used to elicit the resources behind the process of adjustment along with additional factors that could influence future adaptive capacity, including their perceptions of risks related to floods. The analysis revealed how access to resources – including material, economic and human resources – has facilitated living with floods in these communities; although not everyone has been able to adapt in the same way. Past actions, along with public responses being undertaken in the area (i.e. flood control project and upstream structural modifications) appear to be reducing flood-risk perceptions and promoting a false sense of security among community members, irrespective of resource endowment group. For that reason, developing ways to increase awareness about future flood potential and making clear the need for complementary non-structural strategies is imperative. In short, the research findings emphasise that access to resources and cognitive factors are important determinants of adaptive capacity. Hence, both should be taken into account while developing practical strategies towards increasing adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability to floods specifically, and to other natural hazards in general.

Putting adaptive capacity into the context of people’s lives: a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico

López-Marrero, T. and B. Yarnal (2010). Putting adaptive capacity into the context of people's
lives: a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico. Natural Hazards 52:
277-297.

Abstract: 
Recent developments in the vulnerability literature have contested the use of technical solutions as the sole adaptive strategies to reduce natural hazard impact; this literature emphasizes the need to attend to the wider everyday risks to which people are exposed and that aggravate hazard vulnerability. Using a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico, this article supports and enhances that literature by placing floods within a wider context of other risks and determining how everyday risks influence people’s perceptions of and capacity to adapt to floods. Participatory methods are used to elicit the everyday risks that concern community members. The analysis reveals that participants perceive floods as one of their risks, but they see them as neither the most important nor most severe risk in their lives. Instead, they find other concerns—health conditions, family well-being, economic factors, and land tenure—more pressing. These competing risks limit adaptive capacity and increase vulnerability to natural hazards. The results suggest that addressing these multiple risks, mainstreaming flood management and adaptation into the wider context of people’s general well being, and increasing risk perception will strengthen adaptive capacity to present and future floods.
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