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Assessing adaptive capacity of institutions to climate change: A comparative case study of the Dutch Wadden Sea and the Venice Lagoon

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In this study we assess the adaptive capacity of relevant institutions for ecosystems and environmental management in two complex systems: the Dutch Wadden Sea and the Venice Lagoon. A new tool called the Adaptive Capacity Wheel (ACW) is used to diagnose strengths and weaknesses in the institutional systems in these two areas. An overview of both strengths and weaknesses leads to a better understanding of the system of governance and enhances the discussion of how it can be improved. The ACW identifies six dimensions that are relevant for the adaptive capacity of a society, according to the literature on climate adaptation and governance. They are variety, learning capacity, room for autonomous change, leadership, availability of resources, and fair governance. Then, we compare the two cases drawing attention to the physical and institutional similarities and differences that could explain the level of adaptive capacity we found. In this study, the physical and economic characteristics of the two regions proved to be quite similar, while the institutional system was very different. These two different governance systems, however, lead to a similarly low level of adaptive capacity. In theWadden, decision processes are slowed down because of a lack of authority and leadership. On the dimension of learning, the Wadden case scores positively. In Venice, lack of cooperation and accountability limit learning. Venice scores well on the autonomous ability to change. We conclude that in both cases there is a lot to be improved and that the two regions can learn from each other. Venice could, for example, improve learning with structures similar to those in theWadden, such as theWadden Academy. TheWadden area could learn from Venice about how to inform the larger public on potential flooding.


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