Coastal Facilities Vulnerability Assessments

New! View the current published vulnerability assessments

Climate change impacts on sea level, storm surge, and shoreline erosion present unique hazards for coastal units of the National Park System. Visitor centers, roads, historic structures, and other park facilities are of particular concern, as they are often fixed in place, provide important services, and represent significant investments.

The National Park Service 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 (2022), which built on the previous 2016 protocol document. This protocol establishes a standard methodology and set of best practices for conducting vulnerability assessments for coastal facilities. 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 vulnerability assessments have been successfully developed for 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.
Current Coastal Facilities Vulnerability Assessments

Last updated: January 3, 2024


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