Limits to Adaptation: Climate Change Adaptation in the Coorong, Murray Mouth and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert

Media type: 
Catherine Gross
Pittock, J.
Finlayson, M.
Geddes, M.C.
Australian National University
Charles Sturt University
University of Adelaide
South Australia

This report identifies and documents limits to adaptation and adaptation pathways for the Coorong Wetlands. It seeks to determine the extent to which acceptable substitutes can be found for things that are lost, for example because of climate change. It uses participatory approaches to ensure local knowledge, perspectives and information take their place alongside scientific knowledge when examining limits to adaptation and adaptation pathways. In this manner the project provides substantial support for capacity building and exchange of knowledge between community-based and technical organisations.

Executive Summary

The Coorong and Lakes Region offers critical lessons for adapting to climate change because it is at the end of the iconic River Murray, and comprises a large and complex wetland system of international environmental importance by the coast. It is the traditional country of the Ngarrindjeri Nation and supports vibrant communities. The Region has been subject to continual environmental change, from a range of natural drivers in prehistoric times to the more recent human drivers of change, including a succession of environmentally damaging semi-permanent technological interventions created since the time of European settlement.

This research project investigates adaptation to climate change in the Coorong and Lakes Region from a number of angles and perspectives. It is one part of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) program of seven Australian geographically-based projects exploring the "limits to adaptation" and adaptation options in ecologically sensitive areas, such as wetlands, alpine areas and coastal areas. In this context adaptation includes social adaptation to changing climatic conditions as well as ecological adaptation. Climate change adaptation has been investigated from a holistic perspective that examines connections between the social, institutional and ecological elements of this complex system. The research explores limits to adaptation, adaptation options, vulnerability, resilience and environmental health from an historical perspective and by examining the current situation to assess future adaptation options. The project delivers findings in two main areas. First, at a localised regional level the project answers specific climate change research questions related to the Coorong and Lakes Region and offers conclusions and recommendations to enhance adaptation. Second, at a broader level, the research delivers findings for the research community in relation to notions of adaptation and limits to adaptation.

Please cite this report as: 

Gross, C, Pittock, J, Finlayson, M & Geddes, MC 2012, Climate change adaptation in the Coorong, Murray Mouth and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 109 pp.