Better prepared but less resilient: the paradoxical impact of frequent flood experience on adaptive behavior and household resilience
Abstract. To better understand factors shaping adaptive behavior and resilience is crucial in designing policy strategies to prepare households for future flooding. The central question of our paper is how frequent flood experience (FFE) impacts adaptive behavior and self-reported household resilience. The applied empirical methods are binary logistic and linear regression models using data from a panel dataset, including 2462 residents (Germany, state of Saxony). Four main conclusions from the investigations can be drawn. First, more flood experienced households are statistically significantly more likely to have taken precautionary measures in the past. Second, FFE has a statistically significant negative impact on self-reported resilience. Third, the impact of FFE on the capacity to recover and the capacity to resist is statistically significant non-linear. Fourth, putting together these results reveals the paradox of more flood-experienced households being better prepared but feeling less resilient at the same time. It can be concluded that more research is needed to obtain deeper insights into the drivers behind self-reported resilience and that this study can be seen as a piece of the puzzle, taking frequent flood experience as the primary entry point.
Lisa Köhler et al.
Status: open (until 19 Jun 2023)
- CC1: 'Comment on nhess-2023-64', Alexandre Pereira Santos, 09 May 2023 reply
- RC1: 'Comment on nhess-2023-64', Anonymous Referee #1, 23 May 2023 reply
Lisa Köhler et al.
Lisa Köhler et al.
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The investigation presents statistical analyses of household behaviour suffering repeated flood events using panel data information from Germany. The theoretical framing is supported by Protection Motivation Theory (PMT), while the analytical design relies on logit and linear regression models. The formal analyses assess the association of frequent flood experience (FFE) to adaptive behaviour and self-reported household resilience. Authors indicate their results show FFE leads to increased preparedness but decreased perception of resilience. The authors also report a non-linear behaviour to the resist and recover the capacity of respondents. These findings would suggest a paradox between flood preparedness and perceived resilience. Innovation in this investigation stems from considering the temporal aspect of flood experience, especially the frequency of flood events among the same population groups in Saxony, southern Germany.
To support the authors’ research and improve the scientific quality of the preprint manuscript, I would like to point out a few issues I find at the current theoretical framing, which could lead to new insights in an expanded analysis of the data. These observations come from previous experience on the topic, notably when I encountered a similar paradoxical behaviour in flood risk response in low-income settlements of the Global South (Santos et al., 2022).
Initially, the authors present a relevant appraisal of the literature on the topic, focusing on concepts of adaptation motivation, resilient behaviour and flood experience. From this review, they indicate a focus on adaptive behaviour and social resilience (emphasis added). Next, the authors present a review of the relationship between flood experience and resilience.
In this chapter, there is a gap in the lack of attention devoted to the contextual elements framing resilient behaviour. While I do not dispute the importance of the factors presented (e.g., learning capacity, self-regulation, limiting damage, and preparedness), this section is mostly abstract and lacks considering the resources necessary for resilient behaviour. Despite including scholars such as Adger in their review, factors such as assets, resources, and capital (e.g., financial or social) are missing. Including them would improve the theoretical framing and lead to alternative explanations of the investigation’s results, possibly reducing the complexity reported in the discussion section. Furthermore, I would indicate that this section would improve considerably if the authors' argument moved beyond an abstract description of resilience to a more concrete one. Pelling’s vulnerability framework (2003, 2010) could support such improvement as it provides a systematic outlining of context-specific conditions of vulnerability and, by contrast, resilience.
Next, the authors investigate the relationship between flood experience and adaptive behaviour, focusing on PMT. This framework provides rich support for analysing protective behaviour, which is not fully explored in the current stage of the preprint. The authors focus solely on threat appraisal while failing to include coping appraisal (Bubeck et al., 2012, 2013, 2020). Once more, while understanding the relevance of perceived vulnerability and severity, one may not understate the role of response efficacy, self-efficacy, and response cost. When addressing resilient response behaviour, along the preparing, coping, and recovery stages of risk response, it is central to consider the perceived capacity to respond to flood hazards. This literature indicates that people assess whether they can go through with their responses and whether their responses are sufficient to prevent damage. PMT also indicates that responses need to have lower costs than the potential damages, which is not only a psychological (i.e., assessing the risk potential) nor informational (i.e., assessing risk extent) problem but is determined by the resources and assets available for responding. Our findings indicate that risk perception is critical but not sufficient for response. Moreover, we found that households may become passive due to de-sensitization to warnings and feelings of resignation. These factors are dependent on flood experience but seem also to be determined by response capacity.
Finally, regarding the social emphasis of the research, I find the manuscript is still lacking a consideration of social capital. Social capital is critical in disseminating knowledge, adjusting expectations, and demonstrating feasibility in community-scale risk adaptation (Lo et al., 2015). It also plays an important role in mediating access to much-needed resources during hazardous events, especially when State intervention is limited or missing (Pelling, 2003). Furthermore, Social capital can mediate response efficacy by providing examples of effective measures or by hindering individual capacity due to misconceptions. It also may act as a filter for social and government relief and reconstruction support, potentially increasing inequalities (Boubacar et al., 2017; Pelling, 2003). These factors can provide a more complete framing of resilience behaviour. They also provide a bridge between the individual or household-scale factors in the decision-making process and the community-scale influences, which are significant.
Overall, the preprint presents a relevant investigation of resilient flood behaviour while innovating by framing the problem around its temporal dimension. This framing is critical when one considers the potential of coupled (Raymond et al., 2020; Zscheischler et al., 2018), multiple, or systemic stressors (Juhola et al., 2022; Sillmann et al., 2022) in the Anthropocene. The current theoretical gaps hinder the analysis performed in the current manuscript by not including alternative explanations and biasing the discussion around a limited set of influencing factors and behavioural conditions. By expanding the theoretical framing and shoring up its gaps, the research could be improved considerably and provide significant insights in the field.
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