In response to observed and projected changes in climate, efforts to promote climate change adaptation to key stakeholder groups have been rapidly increasing. To help us understand the perceptions of resource managers in the Great Lakes region, we conducted a Web-based survey. We asked respondents to define climate change adaptation and to provide examples of both feasible and current adaptation actions. Responses from 441 individuals indicate that many did not have a clear, proactive concept of climate change adaptation. Only 74% provided a definition, and, of those, only 43% described adaptation as a proactive process. Nearly one third (30%) gave purely reactive descriptions, and 27% failed to convey the concept of intentionally responding to climate change impacts; half of these described climate change mitigation or evolutionary adaptation. Examples of feasible actions covered a range of current conservation practices and some adaptation-specific ideas (e.g., research on potential species' range shifts, managed relocation of species), along with such actions as updates to infrastructure. In comparison to feasible actions, actions identified as under way were biased toward early stages in adaptation, such as science and planning, increasing awareness, and capacity building. We suggest that targeted outreach can help catalyze movement from early-stage actions toward implementation of change: collaborative work with stakeholders to refine and customize the concept of adaptation and develop visions of successful adaptation is vital to the long-term conservation of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Environmental Practice 15:377–392 (2013)