Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation

Coastal Hazards and Sea-Level Rise Asset Vulnerability Assessment Protocol

The National Park Service (NPS) has partnered with the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University to create a Coastal Hazards and Sea-Level Rise Asset Vulnerability Assessment Protocol. This protocol establishes a standard methodology and set of best practices for conducting vulnerability assessments in the built environment. Standardizing the methodologies and data utilized in these assessments allows managers to compare the vulnerability of coastal park assets across local, regional, and national levels.

The assessments are currently focused on assets at risk to coastal hazards and sea-level rise within coastal parks. Coastal vulnerability was chosen as a starting point in the development of vulnerability assessments because of digital data availability and a good understanding of the trends in the major climate stressors (e.g., sea level). The vulnerability assessment protocol is being piloted for inland parks, as the methods can be applied to additional natural hazards and climate stressors, as long as georeferenced hazard data exists or can be mapped.
Vulnerability equation (exposure+sensitivity+adaptive capacity)
Vulnerability is commonly comprised of three equally weighted metrics or components
While this formula has been successfully applied to natural systems, some aspects are less appropriate for application in the built environment (e.g., buildings, roads, etc.). For example, structures cannot inherently adapt to climate change or other hazards, while natural resources often can. Therefore, the methodology and formula has been modified for conducting vulnerability assessments of assets within national parks.
Vulnerability in build environment (exposure+sensitivity)
The new modified formula for the vulnerability of the built environment.
The adaptive capacity of an asset is evaluated separately and is not included in the vulnerability score. This does not mean that understanding the adaptive capacity of an asset is not important. The range of adaptation strategies or options available for key vulnerable assets within a national park is the final and perhaps most important step in the overall analysis, as any adaptation actions taken for an asset will help reduce its exposure or sensitivity, which reduces vulnerability.

One of the primary goals of this protocol is to standardize methods for evaluating the exposure of NPS assets to coastal hazards and sea-level rise. This includes the standardization of data inputs (i.e., widely available, established data) that will allow the application of a consistent methodology among units. Another goal is to create a more complete and effective set of factors or indicators for assessing the sensitivity of assets to coastal hazards. The current focus for this protocol is on structures and transportation assets within the NPS asset database (Facilities Management Software System; FMSS), however, other resources will likely be included in future work.
Vulnerability Assessment Steps (coming soon):
  1. Exposure Analysis & Mapping
  2. Sensitivity Analysis
  3. Vulnerability Analysis
  4. Adaptive Strategies Analysis
Current Vulnerability Assessments
  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Biscayne National Park
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Outer Banks Group: Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, & Wright Brothers National Memorial
  • Fort Sumter National Monument
  • Acadia National Park
  • Cabrillo National Monument
  • Cape Lookout National Seashore
  • Canaveral National Seashore
  • Colonial National Historical Park
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway & Theodore Roosevelt Island
  • Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve
  • National Mall & Memorial Parks
  • Olympic National Park
  • Padre Island National Seashore
  • Sitka National Historical Park
  • War in the Pacific National Historical Park
  • Fire Island National Seashore
  • New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park & Roger Williams National Memorial

Last updated: September 10, 2018

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