Transfers of vulnerability through adaptation plan implementation: An analysis based on networks of feedback control loops

Olivier Barreteau, John M. Anderies, Chloe Guerbois, Tara Quinn, Clara Therville, Raphael Mathevet, Francois Bousquet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


With the increasing number of adaptation plans being generated across the world at multiple scales and levels of organization, the issue of coordination among plans is emerging as a significant challenge. We focus on how lack of coordination may constrain their efficiency as a result of potential transfers of vulnerability. This paper focuses on interdependencies between autonomous feedback control loops that represent adaptation processes and makes the link between autonomous action and (social-ecological) system levels. These interdependencies allow changes in vulnerability of one adaptation actor as a consequence of the reduction of vulnerability of another actor. We refer to the processes behind such changes as “vulnerability transfers” and suggest the need for their identification so that actors may make agreements to address them explicitly. A thorough analysis of each step involved in a feedback control loop enables the identification of potential interdependencies, leading to seven basic types of vulnerability transfer. The analysis of example cases of observed transfers of vulnerability in three coastal case studies then demonstrate the suitability of feedback control loop networks to assess, ex-ante, potential vulnerability transfers. The example cases feature all types of theoretically possible vulnerability transfers. Initial empirical investigation showcases the relative importance of shared infrastructures in generating transfers of vulnerability. It also helps to reveal forgotten links to avoid decreasing efficiency of adaptation processes beyond each autonomous agent’s jurisdiction. Our representation contributes to a more comprehensive ex-ante identification of transfers and hence the possibility to discuss and manage them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Coastal areas vulnerability
  • Externalities
  • Feedback control loop
  • Infrastructures
  • Interdependences
  • Robustness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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