Report Summarizes Findings from Vulnerability Assessments Conducted Across the Department of the Interior

Release Date:

A new USGS Open File Report summarizes the components of a number of U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) climate change vulnerability assessments.

Dozens of birds flying over grassy wetlands

Waterfowl over California wetlands - Credit: USDA

(Public domain.)

Vulnerability assessments can inform climate adaptation planning by providing insight into what natural resources are most at risk and why. Three components of vulnerability—exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity—were defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as necessary for identifying climate adaptation strategies and actions. In 2011, the DOI requested all internal bureaus report ongoing or completed vulnerability assessments about a defined range of assessment targets (landscapes, habitats, resources etc.) or climate related threats (invasive species, wildfire risk etc.). 

Four hundred and three projects were reported, but the original DOI survey did not specify that information be provided on exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity collectively as part of the request, and it was unclear which projects adhered to the framework recommended by the IPCC. Therefore, the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center conducted a supplemental survey to determine how frequently each of the three vulnerability components was assessed. As described in a new USGS Open File Report, the researchers found that the majority of projects did not fully assess vulnerability and to maintain consistency with the IPCC definition of vulnerability, DOI may want to focus initial climate adaptation planning only on the outcomes of studies that comprehensively address vulnerability as inclusive of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. 

The report was authored by Laura Thompson and Shawn Carter from the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, and Michelle Staudinger from the Northeast Climate Science Center.

View the Report >>