A leverage points analysis of a qualitative system dynamics model for climate change adaptation in agriculture


Context Participatory modeling approaches provide opportunities for collective action responding to challenges of community resource limitations. In the context of climate change, challenges arise from the potential limitations of water availability and resulting conflicts within the agricultural sector. Northeast Lower Saxony is the region with the highest irrigation intensity in Germany due to the sandy soils with low water holding capacity, the cultivation of crops with high water demand, and a negative climatic water balance during the summer months. Water resources will become more limited as a consequence of climate change. Simultaneously, the irrigation demand will most likely increase due to intensified crop cultivation. Objective Responding to these challenges, we developed a novel method to identify leverage points for effective climate change adaptation measures. We applied this method to analyze opportunities for climate change adaptation within the agricultural sector in Northeast Lower Saxony. Furthermore, we assessed the potential of stakeholders to implement adaptation measures that correspond to the identified leverage points on different time scales. Methods Our leverage point analysis is based on a qualitative system dynamics model that was developed within a participatory modeling framework. We analyzed parameters, feedback loops, and typical system archetypes within the model. Leverage points that were related to the design and the intent of the model emerged during the iterative model building process. Subsequently, we introduced a rating system to evaluate the potential of each leverage point to be successful as a climate change adaptation measure. We provide a point-by-point analysis of the potential of key stakeholders to implement adaptation measures. Results and conclusions The leverage points analysis was applied to the case study of Northeast Lower Saxony. It revealed that collective action is needed to cope with these challenges. Decision-makers should provide financial incentives to increase water retention in the region. Farmers will have to improve irrigation efficiency and technology for crop production. Increased societal awareness of climate change-related water shortages has the potential to direct the system towards more sustainable water use and consumption patterns. Significance Our novel and structured approach is an attempt to analyze complex socio-economic systems. It supports mediating water resource conflicts between various stakeholders to facilitate collective action for adaptive planning.
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