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Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Strategy

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Climate change strategies and plans

10.2 Adaptive pathways

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Multiple possible futures and questions about possible transformation of social-ecological systems were important considerations in developing this Plan, and a project was trialled to test the feasibility of bringing together two planning approaches: resilience-based planning and adaptive pathways. Lessons from this test are being included as part of the adaptive management framework.

Adaptive pathways are a way of framing thinking about the future so that strategies can be put in place to prepare for likely and unforeseen circumstances.

Several possible futures, such as different climatic scenarios, are considered in the context of what a social-ecological system is now and what the community desires for its future. The desired future is defined in terms of resilience in the Goulburn Broken RCS and the adaptive pathway considers how close a system is to breaching thresholds of resilience, what the future would look like (and how the system would be functioning differently) if those thresholds were breached, and the interventions that would keep it on a desirable path.

Appendix E contains a case study for the Shepparton Irrigation Region (Agricultural Floodplains) that includes suggested steps for identifying adaptive pathways that create desired resilience. The case study was derived from workshops with representatives from the Goulburn Broken CMA and partner organisations and consultants: the adaptive pathways process has not been tested with community members.

The relatively long relationships and understanding between workshop participants, despite their different disciplines and organisations, was likely to have been a big contributor to the workshop’s rich conversations in considering various futures: participants generally understood each other’s mental models of how the Shepparton Irrigation Region and Agricultural Floodplains SES works. It is suspected that significant care would be needed when considering various futures involving participants with broadly different backgrounds.

An important element of the adaptive pathways process is to identify critical threats to a system’s resilience, narrowing the focus for intervention on the five or six threats that are likely to matter in various future scenarios. The risk (likelihood and consequence) of breaching thresholds is a primary consideration in identifying these threats. The case study identifies these threats as ‘key attributes’: water tables, extent of native vegetation, water availability and farm processor viability.