Diversifying to cope with Environmental Change

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Saskia Werners & Matina Donaldson

Abstract: This paper aims to find informative proxies of vulnerability and adaptive capacity by using synergies between information theory and vulnerability science. In particular this paper looks at diversification as a key characteristic of adaptive capacity and means of coping with an uncertain environment. It explores proxies of adaptive capacity and vulnerability in two examples. Adaptive capacity is expressed as a function of the varying environmental conditions a system or actor is subjected to and the actions a system or actor can take. By associating maximum long-term growth rates with a system that is optimally adapted to its environment this paper builds a bridge between information theoretical measures and adaptive capacity. For the explored examples, the adaptive capacity of an actor that diversifies is found to be the relative entropy between the distribution of the environment and a distribution of the actor’s activities.

Keywords: vulnerability, adaptive capacity, climate change, formalisation, diversification, information theory.