Using a Futures Orientation to Enable Adaptation of Protected Areas Under Climate Change

Claudia Múnera-Roldán, Matthew J. Colloff, Lorrae van Kerkhoff, German I. Andrade
Posted on: 10/25/2023 - Updated on: 10/25/2023

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Protected areas are central for long-term conservation of biodiversity and can potentially support climate change mitigation. But protected areas are also affected by climate change. Managers and scientists are increasingly facing the difficult task of making decisions under rapid change. Understanding individual and institutional futures considerations for adaptation is fundamental to evaluate whether protected area governance is adequate to anticipate, prepare and respond to climate change.

Using mixed qualitative methods, we analysed adaptation narratives extracted from 51 semi-structured interviews with conservation practitioners and scientists involved in protected area management in Australia, Colombia and South Africa. We applied a multidimensional model to examine how people make sense of the concept of adaptation. The model allowed us to evaluate how different actors perceive and conceptualise the future and their level of awareness of climate change impacts on values of protected areas, as reflected in the expectations and motivations behind adaptation actions.

The results show a plurality of adaptation concepts and approaches. The narratives are framed under different governance approaches (top-down, bottom-up, participatory) influencing the sense of agency, the rationale for adaptation (adaptation of what and for whom) and the level of acceptance of change. Action time is associated with preferences and actions in response to ecological change, with more proactive action linked with systemic approaches.

We propose that examining world views underpinning how individuals and institutions make sense of the concept of adaptation can support future-oriented conservation practices despite the inherent uncertainty of climate change. The narratives presented here may provide a basis to facilitate deliberations about current practices and identify potential contradictions between individual and collective aspirations for adaptation to create pathways for collective action towards desired futures.


Múnera-Roldán, C., Colloff, M. J., van Kerkhoff, L., & Andrade, G. I. (2023). Using a futures orientation to enable adaptation of protected areas under climate change. People and Nature, 00, 1–17. https://doi. org/10.1002/pan3.10547.

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