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How can irrigated agriculture adapt to climate change? Insights from the Guadiana Basin in Spain

Climate change is already affecting many natural systems and human environments worldwide, like the semi-arid Guadiana Basin in Spain. This paper illustrates a systematic analysis of climate change adaptation in the Guadiana irrigation farming region.

Sukaina Bharwani / Published on 2 December 2014

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Varela-Ortega,C., I. Blanco-Gutiérrez, P. Esteve, S. Bharwani, S. Fronzek, and T.E. Downing (2014). How can irrigated agriculture adapt to climate change? Insights from the Guadiana Basin in Spain. Regional Environmental Change, December 2014.

The study applies a solution-oriented diagnostic framework structured along a series of sequential analytical steps. An initial stage integrates economic and hydrologic modeling to evaluate the effects of climate change on the agriculture and water sectors. Next, adaptation measures are identified and prioritized through a stakeholder-based multi-criteria analysis. Finally, a social network analysis identifies key actors and their relationships in climate change adaptation.

The study shows that under a severe climate change scenario, water availability could be substantially decreased and drought occurrence will augment. In consequence, farmers will adapt their crops to a lesser amount of water and income gains will diminish, particularly for smallholder farms.

Among the various adaptation measures considered, those related to private farming (new crop varieties and modern irrigation technologies) are ranked highest, whereas public-funded hard measures (reservoirs) are lowest and public soft measures (insurance) are ranked middle. In addition, stakeholders highlighted that the most relevant criteria for selecting adaptation plans are environmental protection, financial feasibility and employment creation.

Nonetheless, the social network analysis evidenced the need to strengthen the links among the different stakeholder groups to facilitate the implementation of adaptation processes. In sum, the diagnostic framework applied in this research can be considered a valuable tool for guiding and supporting decision making in climate change adaptation and communicating scientific results.

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SEI author

Sukaina Bharwani

Senior Research Fellow and weADAPT Director

SEI Oxford

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10.1007/s10113-014-0720-y Open access
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