The University of Arizona

Mangroves, mudbanks and seawalls: whose environmental knowledge counts when adapting to sea level rise in Suriname?

Ravic P. Nijbroek


Coastal communities in Suriname are highly vulnerable to sea level rise and will need to adapt. Global assessments of climate risk and vulnerability, such as IPCC reports, play an important role in the development of local adaptation policies. The aim of this article is to explore global and national discourses on climate change vulnerability and their local expressions in national policies. These discourses are juxtaposed with local understandings of vulnerability and adaptation possibilities. These different epistemologies are examined to understand how different knowledge claims and existing power structures lead to contested adaptation solutions. In Suriname, conflict arises in understandings of the coastal geomorphology and ecology of mangroves, and what role they play in adaptation to sea level rise. Conflicting environmental knowledges of mangrove ecology, species diversity, and their potential role in coastal erosion have led to conflict between the state and some local communities, resulting in potential maladaptations. New approaches for a 'situated environmental science' are explored to find more socially inclusive adaptation solutions.

Key words: Adaptation, sea level rise, mangrove, seawall, knowledge, Suriname

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