Toryn Whitehead

Thesis Title;

Shifting Baselines of Climate Change Adaptation


Recent international reports have highlighted shortcomings in current efforts to adapt to climate change, including the undervaluation of nature-based solutions. One challenge facing the use of nature-based solutions for adaptation is shifting baseline syndrome (SBS), which refers to the unconscious, gradual change in the accepted norms for the condition of the environment across generations and over the course of individual lives. While SBS has been in discourses around fisheries science for decades, it has not been incorporated into thinking on adaptation. Building on my master’s thesis, in which I proposed a conceptual framework for addressing the social-ecological consequences of SBS for adaptation, my project will investigate the adaptation of social-ecological systems in the Lake District, England and in Bunloit, Scotland. I will: (i) assess the prevalence of SBS among key land users and other adaptation decision-makers; (ii) investigate current adaptation approaches and determine the extent to which SBS is influencing adaptation planning; and (iii) work with local land users to co-develop adaptation plans which account for longer-term social-ecological change. Co-occurring with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and the UK government’s rewilding agenda, this project will provide valuable insights for researchers, policymakers, and land users themselves on building long-term perspectives into ‘nature-based’ adaptation efforts.

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First Supervisor:

Prof Terry Dawson


Pathway 9: Political Ecology, Energy & Environmental Health (PEEH)