Evaluating adaptation strategies from different angles

Our working group evaluates adaptation strategies from two main angles: On the one hand, we use crop modelling to better understand the impacts of a changing climate on crop production and to anticipate these impacts by identifying and evaluating potential response strategies. With our statistical and process-based crop modelling approaches, we analyze key components influencing agricultural production in tropical regions. Therefore, we integrate biophysical (e.g. climate and soil) and management-related information (e.g. variety selection, use of fertilizer or irrigation) to explain yield variability and other agricultural outputs. In this work, we place a specific focus on the quantification of the proportion of weather-attributable crop yield variability and estimate risks for crop production under current and future climatic conditions. For this purpose, we also analyze the influence of regional climate change on agricultural production under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios with a particular focus on extreme events and local growing seasons. To reduce the bias of climate model data and subsequently simulated crop yields, state-of-the-art bias-adjustment and downscaling methods are applied to regional and global climate simulations.

On the other hand, we complement these insights by analyzing adaptation strategies from a broader socio-economic and policy perspective. Adaptation as a process requires an enabling environment and a solid understanding of the local context and vulnerability – both physical and social/institutional. Thus, the impact-based assessments conducted within our working group are complemented with analyses of social vulnerability and adaptive capacity, to evaluate adaptation feasibility and suitability. Additionally, with regard to the effectiveness of different adaptation strategies, we also consider the economic dimension of adaptation.

Furthermore, we place a special emphasis on the study of institutional drivers and barriers to adaptation. This includes questions of resource governance in socio-ecological systems, e.g. related to different tenure regimes or land rights. In addition, we study the ways in which adaptation is embedded in different local contexts and larger efforts towards climate resilience in agriculture. Furthermore, the inter-linkages to food security, livelihoods, migration, conflicts and gender/diversity are considered.

Methods for economic analyses include cost-benefit analyses, as well as econometric and experimental approaches. To assess social vulnerability and adaptive capacity of target populations and case study regions, we use methods such as multi-criteria analyses and theoretical frameworks on vulnerability and resilience. Indicators are assessed using quantitative and spatial data, as well as qualitative data, collected during fieldwork in in-depth interviews, focus groups and household surveys. This also allows for the study of local perceptions and local knowledge of climatic changes, related impacts and opportunities for adaptation.

If you would like to know more about our work on adaptation in the agricultural sector, please reach out to Dr. Sophia Weituschat (