Press release

How do Prairie communities best manage climate change challenges?

December 15, 2004

IISD, PFRA and NRI launch Adaptation as Resilience Building project

WINNIPEG — IISD has launched a new project in partnership with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA—the rural extension service of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada that has from its inception in the aftermath of the "dirty 30s," built adaptive capacity among farmers and farm communities to cope with climate stress), and the Centre for Community Based Resource Management at the University of Manitoba's Natural Resources Institute.

This-two year, $300,000 project is funded through the Canada's Climate Change Action Fund and will examine the resilience of prairie communities to past climate stresses as the basis for adaptation to future climate change.

The project is based on the premise that prairie agroecosystems, or the inter-relationship between social and ecological systems in the prairie region, have been continuously adapting (successfully and unsuccessfully) to historic climate variability.

"By examining successful examples of how agroecosystems have adapted to past climate stress, we believe that we can learn how to promote adaptive capacity and build the resilience of prairie agroecosystems to climate change," explains Dr. Henry David Venema, Director of Sustainable Natural Resources Management at IISD.

The project will undertake a series of case studies in regions of high historic climate stress. Through these carefully selected case studies using GIS analysis of historic climate stresses, the project will explore:

  • why some prairie agroecosystems are resilient to existing climate stress;

  • which existing policies and management practices promote or impede resilience to existing climate stress;

  • how climate resilience can be increased by strengthening adaptive capacity through targeted policy intervention; and,

  • which prairie agroecosystems may be highly vulnerable to future climate change, and which policy interventions are most important in these regions.

To reach these goals, the project will undertake three main tasks:

  1. A Vulnerability Analysis that will integrate historic climate variability and socio-economic data to identify potential vulnerability "hotspots" for detailed study.

  2. A Resilience Analysis at the farm and community level that will assess existing adaptive capacity and its role in building resilience to climate change, and include a synthesis of current and planned policies that will build resilience to climate change.

  3. An Adaptation Priority Analysis in which future climate scenarios will be integrated with crop and land use models to identify regions where building resilience to climate change may have highest priority.

The primary outcomes of the project will be a deeper understanding of the potential for increasing resilience to climate change on the Canadian prairies and policy recommendations to support this goal.

"Because the project reflects IISD's deep interest in agroecological systems resilience, their varied adaptive capacity, and the underlying policies that promote or impede adaptive capacity I am very confident that the project's research findings will make an important contribution to the design of Canada's evolving Agricultural Policy Framework," Dr. Venema said. "I am also pleased to be working with PFRA and the Centre for Community Based Resource Management on this project. It is great to have such strong partners collaborating on this research."

The project is led by Dr. Venema in collaboration with Dr. Fikret Berkes of the Natural Resources Institute, and Dr. Harvey Hill of PFRA.

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.