Making vulnerability assessments matter for climate change adaptation in the Pacific Islands

As global climate change continues to impact Pacific Islands, the clear need for local and regional adaptation has made vulnerability assessments (VAs) an increasingly useful planning tool for biocultural resource adaptation. With this in mind, the Pacific Island Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC), a United States-sponsored climate adaptation endeavor for the Pacific Islands, is conducting climate change VAs to help resource managers prioritize conservation efforts aimed at improving the ability of Pacific Island species, ecosystems, and key cultural resources to endure climate change and other threats. However, there is yet no consensus on the best approaches to conduct scientifically robust VAs that provide managers with the urgently needed information to guide adaptation management planning and implementation. Although the descriptions of climate change vulnerability commonly mention the interactions among climatic and non-climatic threats, in practice VAs seldom evaluate these interactions. Given the widespread influence of non-climatic stressors (e.g., invasive species, land cover change) on Pacific Islands, past vulnerability approaches are of limited use to conservationists and managers dealing with a suite of interacting and ever changing short- and long-term threats to the resilience of the regionĀ“s socio-ecological systems. This poster summarizes the vulnerability assessment framework the PICCC is developing to deal with these challenges while aiming to increase stakeholder collaboration and capacity necessary to deal with large-scale and interacting conservation threats. We will highlight the lessons learned and new approaches for conducting vulnerability assessments from our assessment of the vulnerability of Hawaiian Islands terrestrial plant and bird species to climate change.

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