Anticipating and transforming futures: a literature review on transdisciplinary coastal research in the Global South

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Anticipation of futures using transdisciplinary approaches is critical to provide the basis for appropriate action to cope with current and future risks and to foster sustainability transformations. Coasts in the Global South in particular are subjected to severe environmental and societal challenges exacerbated by climate change. Yet, traditional research methods and epistemologies may not reflect the need for envisioning radically different sustainable futures. To gain an overview of and identify gaps in the current practices of transformational transdisciplinary research in coastal regions of the Global South, we conducted a systematic literature review of empirical English-language research articles (n = 256). Our results showed that most of the articles reviewed focused on past and current state analysis. Those articles using anticipation methods rarely analysed or established a link between anticipation and sustainability transformation. Yet, transdisciplinary and anticipation research have synergistic effects to foster sustainability transformation. A combination of these approaches may integrate pluralistic voices and values of stakeholders and foster potential alternative visions to counter unsustainable narratives. Thereby, the visions for possible futures may become more inclusive and reflective of realities in the Global South. Anticipation of the future using transdisciplinary approaches can provide a basis for adaptive management of future environmental and societal challenges. It may provide the knowledge-base which can be used to identify, reduce or prevent governance actions that result in undesirable states of the future. The inclusion of anticipation and foresight in transdisciplinary research creates the potential for achieving or progressing towards innovative and sustainable visions of the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2288957
JournalEcosystems and People
Issue number1
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 17.12.2023

Bibliographical note

The work was supported by the German Committee Future Earth as part of the working group ‘Anticipating and Transforming Coastal Futures’. MR acknowledges input from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany through the project marEEchange (project no. 01LC2326E).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

    Research areas

  • Futures, marine social science, mode-2, ocean sciences, SDG 14, sustainability transformation, visioning
  • Environmental planning