Expanding vulnerability assessments for public lands
Project: In recent years, federal land management agencies in the United States have been tasked to consider climate change vulnerability and adaptation in their planning. Ecological vulnerability approaches have been the dominant framework, but these approaches have significant limitations for fully understanding vulnerability in complex social-ecological systems in and around multiple-use public lands. In this paper, we describe the context of United States federal public lands management with an emphasis on the Bureau of Land Management to highlight this unique decision-making context. We then assess the strengths and weaknesses of an ecological vulnerability approach for informing decisionmaking. Next, we review social vulnerability methods in the context of public lands to demonstrate what these approaches can contribute to our understanding of vulnerability, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
Research Partners: BLM
Take away: We suggest some key design principles for integrated social-ecological vulnerability assessments considering the context of public lands management, the limits of ecological vulnerability assessment, and existing approaches to social vulnerability assessment. We argue for the necessity of including social vulnerability in a more integrated social-ecological approach in order to better inform climate change adaptation.
Community-empowered adaptation for self-reliance
Project: This paper describes the integration of social-ecological science with traditional knowledge to address global-change challenges faced by indigenous communities in rural Alaska.
Research Partners: Tribal Councils and Tribal Leadership
Take away: The Community Partnership for Self-Reliance is a novel boundary organization that uses community visions for self-reliance, based on local and traditional knowledge, to link bottom-up with top-down adaptation planning. We suggest that similar boundary strategies can improve the communication of adaptation needs and opportunities across scales, empowering local communities to select adaptation choices that fit their own goals. This would facilitate regional experimentation and diffusion of innovative solutions to address rapid and heterogeneous environmental and socioeconomic change.
Adapting science to a warming world
Project: Climate change is complicating the variables that Alaskans consider when planning for the future. Communities, agencies and other entities have begun to grapple with both the information that they need to adapt to a changing climate and how the processes and practices of science should change to make science more useful. We reviewed sixty-five documents that expressed practical research needs related to climate change.
Research Partners: Alaska Center for Climate Adaptation & Policy
Take away: Documents nearly unanimously expressed that science, as it is currently practiced, is inadequate to meet the challenges of climate change. They call for processes that are more transparent, collaborative and accessible. They recommend changed practices including maintaining accessible data-sharing archives, building networks for knowledge sharing, and creating place-based long-term partnerships with communities. They advocate integrating local knowledge, but fail to address the complexities of how this is best accomplished. They also suggest the need for improved training in interdisciplinary research and changes in the incentive structure of research institutions. This review complements the climate-change literature by providing concrete suggestions about how to increase the utility of science.