REGIONAL PATH DEPENDENCE AND CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION: A CASE STUDY FROM THE MCLAREN VALE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

JOURNAL OF RURAL STUDIES, Volume 63, October 2018, Pages 24-33
Douglas K. Bardsley, Elisa Palazzo, Marco Pütz

ABSTRACT
The adaptation of agricultural systems to climate change remains one of humanity's greatest challenges. Regions with complex, knowledge-intensive farming practices have many components that can be adjusted to increase systemic resilience. An argument for the importance of evolutionary adaptation pathways is developed with a case-study of the viticultural region of the McLaren Vale in South Australia. In a series of walk-and-talk interviews, farmers describe their business risks and the opportunities to adapt. Their responses suggest a sophisticated ecological understanding facilitated by their life-experiences, learning networks and relationships with governance, research and marketing organisations. In particular, a new exploitation of agrobiodiversity is generating on-farm resilience by spreading the risks of production and providing opportunities for the region to better respond to changing environmental and market conditions. Individual farmers have developed unique climate change adaptation pathways, but effective cooperation has also enabled the evolution of a regional adaptation cluster. Regions such as the McLaren Vale with a path dependence of innovation could have a cultural heritage that supports attempts at adaptation, which will in turn make them vital first-movers in the search for effective responses to climate change risk.

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The McLaren Vale region of South Australia, showing changes in agricultural land use, 1993–2008 ( Source: Government of SA data )

The McLaren Vale region of South Australia, showing changes in agricultural land use, 1993–2008 (Source: Government of SA data)