Actions and leverage points for ecosystem-based adaptation pathways in the Alps

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Ecosystems support the adaptation of societies to global changes through their contributions to people's quality of life. Ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) implementation remains a challenge and will require changes of practices, structures and processes underpinning human and nature interactions, also considered as co-production of nature’s contributions to adaptation (NCA). We analysed the levers required to implement EBA to reach a future desired by stakeholders of a mountain social-ecological system in the French Alps. Using a participatory backcasting scenario approach and a serious game, local stakeholders were invited to design a desired vision for their region in 2040 and reflect on strategies and levers for reaching it. We analysed co-production actions required to achieve adaptation objectives aligned with the vision. We then assessed how local communities can leverage these actions to navigate a desired adaptation pathway. EBA and landscape multifunctionality are critical to achieve stakeholders’ vision. EBA require substantial adjustments, transformations, or new co-production actions, but natural capital was not a limiting factor for adaptation. Synergies among multiple co-production actions create windows of opportunity for local communities to achieve their vision through the combination of social levers. However, most powerful levers, like collaborative decision-making or common strategy design, appeared the most difficult to activate. EBA is mainly constrained here by social barriers reflecting the lack of collaboration and communication among stakeholders. Recognizing potential contributions of ecosystems to adaptation by maintaining and developing NCA supply can help communities to re-structure and re-think their local social-ecological system to achieve desired and sustainable pathways.

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