Assessing agriculture's vulnerability to drought in European pre-Alpine regions

Stephan, Ruth, Terzi, Stefano, Erfurt, Mathilde, Cocuccioni, Silvia, Stahl, Kerstin and Zebisch, Marc, (2023). Assessing agriculture's vulnerability to drought in European pre-Alpine regions. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 23(1), 45-64

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  • Sub-type Journal article
    Author Stephan, Ruth
    Terzi, Stefano
    Erfurt, Mathilde
    Cocuccioni, Silvia
    Stahl, Kerstin
    Zebisch, Marc
    Title Assessing agriculture's vulnerability to drought in European pre-Alpine regions
    Appearing in Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences
    Volume 23
    Issue No. 1
    Publication Date 2023-01-12
    Place of Publication n/a
    Publisher European Geosciences Union
    Start page 45
    End page 64
    Language eng
    Abstract Droughts are natural hazards that lead to severe impacts in the agricultural sector. Mountain regions are thought to have abundant water, but have experienced unprecedented drought conditions as climate change is affecting their environments more rapidly than other places. The effect radiates by reducing water availability well beyond the mountains' geographical locations. This study aims to improve the understanding of agriculture's vulnerability to drought in Europe's pre-Alpine region, considering two case studies that have been severely impacted in the past. We applied a mixed-method approach combining the knowledge of regional experts with quantitative data analyses in order to define the region-specific vulnerability based on experts' identified factors. We implemented two aggregation methods by combining the vulnerability factors that could be supported with subregional data. Whereas the equal weighting method combines all factors with the same weight, the expert weighting method combines the factors with varying weight based on the expert's opinion. These two methods resulted in vulnerability maps with the expert weighting showing a higher vulnerability, and partly relocating the medium and lower vulnerabilities to other subregions within the case study regions. In general, the experts confirmed the resulting subregions with higher vulnerability. They also acknowledged the value of mapping vulnerability by adopting different aggregation methods confirming that this can serve as a sensitivity analysis. The identified factors contributing most to the regions' vulnerability point to the potential of adaptation strategies decreasing the agriculture's vulnerability to drought that could enable better preparedness. Apart from region-specific differences, in both study regions the presence of irrigation infrastructure and soil texture are among the most important conditions that could be managed to some extent in order to decrease the regions' vulnerability. Throughout the analyses, the study benefited from the exchange with the experts by getting an in-depth understanding of the regional context with feedback relations between the factors contributing to vulnerability. Qualitative narratives provided during the semi-structured interviews supported a better characterization of local vulnerability conditions and helped to better identify quantitative indicators as proxies to describe the selected vulnerability factors. Thus, we recommend applying this mixed-method approach to close the gap between science and practitioners.
    Copyright Holder The Authors
    Copyright Year 2023
    Copyright type Creative commons
    DOI 10.5194/nhess-23-45-2023
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    Created: Thu, 09 Nov 2023, 01:18:41 JST by Aarti Basnyat on behalf of UNU EHS