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Through a systematic review of scientific literature, we investigate the nature and the contents of vulnerability research in rural Spain. The studies reviewed (n = 137) are unevenly distributed across the country, with almost half conducted in the autonomous communities of Andalucía and Catalunya. We identify two main strands of research depending on the methodological approach (quantitative vs qualitative). The scale of analysis varies, from national to local level, while only 14% of the studies are grounded on vulnerability concepts (exposure, sensitivity, adaptive capacity) and related analytical frameworks. Climate change is the most studied driver of vulnerability, often considered in conjunction with other stressors such as environmental degradation, unsuitable policies, or unfavorable terms of trade. The studies reviewed pay minimal attention to sensitivity factors and to adaptive capacity, which often only appear in qualitative studies that focus on social systems. In the light of these findings, we identify research gaps and discuss the ambivalent role of rural development policy in either enabling or hindering adaptive capacity in Spanish rural areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
Number of pages15
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Adaptive capacity
  • Climate change
  • Literature review
  • Multiple drivers
  • Vulnerability


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