Perception and Resilience of Andean Populations Facing Climate Change

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Oct 15, 2014
Julio C. Postigo

The  Andean  Tropics  are  among  the  mountain  systems  most  affected  by  climate  change. The  most conspicuous effect is glacier recession. However, little is known about how rural populations perceive climatic change  impacts  or  about  how  social-ecological systems  respond  to  the  effects  of  change. Here,  I  examine perceptions of climatic change and their effects on social-ecological systems in the Peruvian Southern Andes. Data from interviews and focus groups are used to explain institutional responses to climatic variability based upon perceived effects of climate change. Results show that people perceive glaciers shrinking, more frequent and intense extreme weather events,  more  extreme temperatures, and  shortened rainy seasons. Their responses to these  perceived  changes  range  from  wetland  creation  to  agriculture  calendar  modification  to  irrigation adjustments. Such  perceptions  of  change  rely  on  personal  observations  and  local  knowledge,  which  inform responses; knowledge-based action characterizes resilient systems. This case study supports the conclusion that the resilience of social-ecological systems in the Peruvian Southern Andes is based upon local knowledge and institutions. Thus,  strengthening  institutions  and  fostering  local  knowledge  renewal  are  crucial  for  systems’
sustainability or transformation.

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