Topic III: Coastal adaptation governance

This topic investigates how governance arrangements (formal and informal institutions such as policies, rules, norms and conventions) and perception of coastal risks enable or hinder coastal adaptation. This involves exploring the design of effective governance arrangements and policies to overcome prevailing adaptation barriers. Research may operate both at the household-level focusing on cognitive barriers and awareness raising, as well as at multiple levels of jurisdiction involved in coastal adaption planning and focusing on institutional barriers.

Existing policies, strategies, economic dynamics and institutional settings will be investigated for different geographical, social-economic, political, cultural settings, in order to understand dealing with human-induced threats in coastal areas. These results will be feed into Topic 1, in order to improve adaptation models in the assessment of socio-economic impacts. Research will be case-study based; data will be gathered through document analysis, interviews, questionnaires and focus groups.

A particular focus is placed on addressing the following questions:

  • How have socio-economic and physical stressors (sea level change being one of them) and their interactions affected the vulnerability and resilience of coastal communities in the past, and through which kind of strategies have communities been able to cope with or adapt to these stressors (Holdschlag and Ratter, 2013)?

  • Which social-institutional factors hindered or promoted learning, capacity building and adaptation during coastal climate-induced disasters (e.g. Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, etc.)?

  • What is the role of cultural framing, perception, experience, information and learning of communities in building local knowledge on and adapting to sea level rise? How does regional sea level change transform social patterns of local coastal communities, including the social basis of adaptive capacity, the structure of social networks, and the role of collective responses (Bohle et al., 1994; Adger, 2003;  Barnett and Adger, 2003).

  • Which types of governance arrangements across multiple levels may encourage public and private sectors to collectively address the challenges of sea level rise and transform vulnerable regions into climate-resilient coasts?


The work program is structured in three basic topics. Work within each topic is expected to be addressed by several working groups as part of the SPP.

Topic I

Integrated modeling of coastal socio-economic impacts and adaptation

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Topic II

Coastal risk management and adaptation pathways

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Topic III

Coastal adaptation governance

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