Multi-scale adaptations to climate change and social-ecological sustainability in coastal areas (MAGIC)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography


Adaptation plans have become increasingly popular across the globe. While some adaptations have beneficial outcomes, many adaptations have unintended consequences for vulnerability, either for the decision makers themselves or for other stakeholders. This is particularly relevant in coastal zones where both marine and land-based adaptations have an impact and where human pressures are greatest.

We believe a better understanding of the underlying social-ecological processes driving adaptation in coastal areas, and particularly the feedbacks between risk from biophysical change, cognitive processes, and adaptation, will reduce the incidence of maladaptations while increasing the frequency of win-win adaptations.

We use a model of "private proactive adaptation to climate change" (Grothmann & Patt 2005) to assess the interactions between: a) the actual risk posed by climate change; b) cognitive factors such as perceived risk and perceived adaptive capacity; c) adaptations; and d) situated learning when decisions makers participate in modeling processes. We assess the relationship between these drivers and adaptation plans in coastal areas at three scales: individual decision makers; local communities of practice; and regional planning authorities. Participatory modelling with decision makers could result in lasting impacts for enhanced coastal resilience.

In each of three coastal regions: the Languedoc-Rousillon in France; Cornwall in the UK; and the Garden Route coast in South Africa, we will identify four examples where users, communities of practice, and regional authorities have developed adaptation plans and strategies resulting in the unintended transfer of vulnerability from one sector, scale or place to another. We will use available empirical data and models, participatory agent-based modeling, interpretative methods; and reflexive learning during the modeling process to catalyze and assess changes in the cognitive perceptions of decision makers who design adaptation plans.

Planned Impact

Who might benefit from this research?
MAGIC aims to have immediate and long-lasting impacts for academic, public sector (national regional and local government), third sector (voluntary organisations, charities and NGOs) and community actors. Through our partners (see Pathways to Impact and CfS) and wider collaborators we insure that our collaborative approach to co-design and co-production will maximize impact. Whilst much of our research is place-based- the impacts will be distributed beyond these localities.
Academic beneficiaries are identified in the academic beneficiaries section. Public sector beneficiaries include local governments, such as Cornwall Council, local voluntary organisations, such as conservation groups, and local communities who are resident at sites.

How might they benefit from this research?
These beneficiaries will be impacted in a number of different ways and we use multiple, diverse means of engagement, communication and dissemination to bring about impact, as detailed in Pathways to Impact. The types of academic impacts expected included new transdisciplinary understandings of how coastal adaptation measures might undermine adaptive capacity and longer term resilience, and how the framing and mental models of decision-makers bias certain types of strategies and decisions. MAGIC research findings will add to body of knowledge around resilience and adaptive capacity, especially informing debates about the dynamic cross scale relationships and trade-offs implicit in different decisions, policies and institutions. In turn this informs broader national and international policies and processes, such as the evolving 'Future Earth' agenda.

We expect a number of different social and economic impacts, most notably:

Environment, energy and sustainability impacts: our research will have lasting impacts in the locations through shared learning, questioning and sensitizing to long term sustainability issues particularly but not exclusively around coastal zone management, adaptation planning, rural development, conservation planning. These interventions are further expected to have beneficial impacts on wellbeing of individuals and communities who live by the coast and whose livelihoods are dependent on coastal resources.

Social welfare and social service provision: our research findings will help to target investments in climate change adaptation, and also provide important justification and evidence to support funding these areas, and important tools and frameworks to support decision-making and long term planning incorporating new models and approaches to understanding risk and vulnerability, ultimately building adaptive capacity and enhancing multi-scalar resilience and sustainability.
Title MAGIC Pathfinder Puzzle 
Description The MAGIC Pathfinder Puzzle is a wooden object or toy, comprising seven hexagons which can be stacked or arranged in one dimension to find pathways through different dimensions of risk and to reveal a range of stamens and questions about risk and uncertainty. It is derived from a series of interviews and a creative workshop with stakeholders. The Puzzle is designed as a decision-making tool to enable different facets of risk to be considered. It is designed to be used by individuals - to play with as a 'thinking tool' - and within a group or team for problem-solving and training. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The MAGIC Pathfinder Puzzle was only launched in March 2017. Feedback is so far very positive with a key stakeholder - the Environment Agency - requesting further Puzzles so it can be used at national levels and for training within the organisation. 
Description We have been able to examine how maladaptive decisions get made and why longer term strategies supporting climate change adaptation are often disregarded, in the context of coastal management in UK. We have identified how different dimensions of risk influence decisions and actions. we have analysed how coastal communities perceive their resilience to change, including extreme weather, and how place attachment and uncertainty affect this.
Exploitation Route Through using the MAGIC Pathfinder Puzzle as decision-support.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description We have worked extensively with a range of stakeholders at local and national level in UK. The findings are feeding into coastal adaptation policies and flood defence strategies, and currently stakeholders are evaluating our MAGIC Pathfinder Puzzle, a thinking tool for decision-support. we are not sure precisely what the impacts are yet and will track them over time.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/M010546/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 08/2018
Description Coastal Climate Change Fellowship Scoping Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Workshop organised by Larissa Naylor at LGA House in London, with key partners drawing on MAGIC findings and including a presentation by Tara Quinn.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Hi Vis Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop was developed in collaboration with 'Creative Data' a design company, and was facilitated by them. it used a series of creative activities to investigate stakeholders' understandings and attitudes to risk. It provided very rich insights for the project and our theorising of risk perception and the different forms of risk and their influence on decisions making for adaptation. 20 participants were involved in a full day of activities. Pre-workshop, post-workshop and further interviews have been undertaken. The findings from the workshop have informed the development of the MAGIC Pathfinder Puzzle artefact, and two journal articles are being developed from the findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Invited talk at the Local Government Association's Coastal Special Interest Group (March 2017) Larissa Naylor 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Larissa Naylor was invited by the Head of the Coastal Special Interest group of the Local Government Association to give insights from fellowship and MAGIC research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Stakeholder workshop Wadebridge 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Twelve members of the public attended a presentation and facilitated discussion on survey data of Wadebridge resident's place attachment and perceptions of flood risk. Participants advised they will use the data to support development of the Wadebridge Neighbourhood Plan
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017