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Management of Climatic Extremes with Focus on Floods and Droughts in Agriculture

A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration and timing of weather and climate extremes, and can result in unprecedented extremes. These climate extremes have significant impacts on human and ecological systems, which are influenced by changes in climate, vulnerability and exposure, resulting in increased fatalities and economic losses especially in developing countries.

To reduce disaster risks, the global and local society or community need to assess weather and climate events with the interaction of these hazards, the exposure of society to these events and the vulnerability of the region and society to these extremes. On the other hand, the future projection of events and their impacts is expected to be more uncertain. Under the given uncertainties in climate change impact projections, improving resilience by reinforcing the capability of societies to cope better with extreme events is one of the most favoured approaches. The adaptation includes practical measures that not only reduce the disaster risk but also reinforce the base system.

This paper aims at summarizing the current practices of managing extreme climate events, assessment of impact under climate change scenarios, and development of adaptation strategies.

Extreme events may affect natural resources such as soil fertility and available water resulting in the increased vulnerability of agricultural production to negative impacts, such as serious water stress, land degradation and desertification as well as waterlogging and land inundation. Extreme floods and droughts with changing temperature are expected to affect the hydrological conditions of a basin and farmland, which may make it increasingly difficult to plan for cultivation activities, such as exact farmworks including on-farm water management practices.

When planning for the long term and assessing climate change risks, it is important to integrate how different trends interact in a comprehensive manner to identify risk scenarios for the future. These trends may influence and reinforce each other, and determine risk levels through interconnected processes that are difficult to separate in order to get a real sense of future risks, and policies that need to be set up to reduce them. Coordinated and effective adaptation strategies are essential to ensure long-term food and water security under changing climatic conditions.

Adaptation to climate change is inevitably a multidisciplinary activity, and it requires the consideration of agro-climatological, technical and socio-economic issues. Adaptation management demands integration of methods and synergies with mitigation of climate change. Innovative, coordinated and effective adaptation strategies require the capacity for adaptation to be continuously improved and targeted monitoring of the costs, benefits and impacts of the adapted policies.

Many of the benefits of adaptive management come in the form of better knowledge of ecosystem response to management actions. This improved knowledge reduces uncertainties and would therefore improve management decisions. These benefits are difficult to measure and translate into the standard metric of economic analysis. The intangible nature of these benefits stands in contrast to the direct, upfront costs of adaptive management programmes, such as ecosystem monitoring programmes, scientific staff and institutional support.

Responses to drought, which have been reactive in most parts of the world, have proved to be ineffective in most cases. Whether drought characteristics change or not, it is imperative to follow a more risk-based approach to respond to drought, based on developed national drought policies, preparedness plans and widely disseminated drought early warning systems.

Floods need to be recognized as a natural phenomenon that has multifaceted ecological benefits, but will turn into disasters if the vulnerable sections of society are exposed, particularly in extreme events. Integrated flood management approaches that draw on the maximum benefits of floodplains within the framework of water resources management, land-use planning and risk management principles need to be adopted.

Adaptation to climate change to reduce vulnerability in the water sector would have to involve far more than just water managers. Mechanisms for interaction between various stakeholders, coordination among various agencies and collaboration among various disciplines for establishing better management systems need to be promoted, not only against climate change but also for everlasting improvement of systems.

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