Interdisciplinary science is needed to address the extreme events, such as severe cyclones and harsh heat-waves, that are affecting landscapes as a result of climate change. A meaningful collaboration with those facing these problems is critical, to generate knowledge and foster its uptake.

The challenge

Planning for climate change in the face of uncertainty

Human induced climate change is proceeding unchecked: atmospheric carbon is now at over 400 parts per million (ppm) (up from around 320 ppm just 50 years ago). It is certain that this will drive dramatic changes in weather patterns. However, the specific implications of these changes for particular communities, industries, species and natural systems are yet to be understood.

In our landscapes and seascapes many human activities, such as tourism and agriculture, depend on a healthy ecosystem. Managers must be equipped to respond to the impacts of a changing climate on communities, industries and biodiversity. The impacts range from sudden events, such as cyclones, to slower changes such as higher temperatures leading to lower sugar cane yields.

Scientific knowledge about how to respond comes from many different disciplines. Uptake into decision-making is hindered by boundaries between disciplines and conventional methods that often separate needed science from decision-makers.

Our response

Developing knowledge brokering for adaptation planning and management

Working with partners, we established a Tropical North Knowledge Brokering Hub. This science-practice platform brings together many different biophysical and social science disciplines, and also fosters stakeholder knowledge exchange, information sharing and the co-production of research.

The Hub comprised CSIRO, James Cook University and four natural resource management groups (Reef Catchments NRM, Terrain NRM, Cape York NRM and the Torres Strait Regional Authority).

This integrated approach puts emphasis on knowledge brokering. The Hub's knowledge brokers dedicate time to liaison among scientists and practitioners. Their work involves:

  1. common problem identification
  2. participatory context analysis
  3. knowledge development and selection
  4. knowledge exchange in workshops and small groups
  5. knowledge use and application.

The knowledge brokering approach has been transferred to a range of different contexts, including working in central and northern Australia and the Great Barrier Reef catchments.

The results

Effective participatory processes and plans for adaptation management

Knowledge brokering, starting with participatory scenarios, led to a range of simple knowledge products, including fact sheets, videos and presentations, that were used by the NRM organisations to guide farmers, local government planners and others.

In the Mackay Whitsunday region, cultural mapping supported the inclusion of Yuibera and Koinmerburra Traditional Owner perspectives into the regional climate adaptation plan, highlighting their obligation to look after country. Other stakeholders, many for the first time, recognised Yuibera and Koinmerburra peoples' position as custodians and owners. A record of the engagement and knowledge generation process was documented to provide both a record and a resource for future participatory adaptation planning.

In central Australia, we worked with the with Eastern Arrernte people of Ltyentye Apurte Community on a two-way knowledge exchange on climate change. The project brought climate data and Arrernte observations of weather together to produce a two-way presentation about climate change and its impacts, presented by the local rangers in both English and Arrernte language to many community audiences.

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