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Developing a theory of transformation to support decision-making in primary industries in Australia Sarah Park, Mendham Emily, Nadine Marshall, Emma Jakku, Anne-Maree Dowd, Mark Howden Many primary industries in Australia are undergoing fundamental changes in response to a variety of drivers, including climate change. We explore whether elements of existing theory can be synthesized to improve understanding of the incremental and transformational adaptation processes occurring, with the aim of enhancing the capacity of decision-makers to take more informed and effective response actions. From a review of literature relating to theories of transformation (and transition) in agricultural and land-use research and application, two particular concepts were identified as potentially useful in understanding the process of fundamental change undertaken by primary industry stakeholders in response to climate change. One of these is the theory of transitions as developed within resilience thinking. This theory conceptualises transitions as a process of societal change that occurs through a cycle of four clusters of activities. The other is an adaptation science and management framework that characterises the issue as one of managing vulnerability and building adaptive capacity. The framework consists of an assembly of four key questions used to understand the process of adaptation. These questions examine who or what adapts, what they adapt to and why, what impacts the result, and how well they adapt. We combine these two concepts to provide a priori a theory of the dynamics of transformative change that can be used collaboratively with primary industry stakeholders to understand transformative processes and inform actions. Our integrated theory is represented schematically as the adaptation action cycle. Transformation adaptation is defined as a discrete decision that fundamentally (but not necessarily irreversibly) results in change in the biophysical, social, or economic components of a system from one form, function or location (state) to another, with the aim of enhancing the capacity for desired values to be achieved given perceived or real changes in the present or future environment. Interestingly, the two concepts underpinning the adaptation action cycle originate from differing, and sometimes considered competing, ideological perspectives. Whilst the resilience approach describes the stages of change occurring within the construct of the social-ecological system in response to multiple drivers, a more anthropocentric decision- making perspective aimed at informing change management outcomes (generally focusing on livelihoods) is taken in the vulnerability literature. These two concepts have been operationalized to produce insights into the different stages of the incremental and transformational adaptation process occurring within the wine industry in Australia over a five-year period. Results from the first year of data collection and analysis suggests that a number of factors, including the size and structure of an enterprise, may impact the nature of the decision- making process, type of transformation strategies adopted (e.g. in situ land use change, translocation, or diversification of income streams), outcomes and visions of success. Analysis to date shows that the two elements of existing theory can be effectively synthesized and applied to agricultural production systems not only to understand the dynamics of transformative adaptation, but also to provide insights into the information needs, opportunities and limitations for undertaking fundamental change in agricultural production in the face of climate change.
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