Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Rachel Lamb, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD
Social and ecological systems are increasingly at risk due to global climate and land use change. Although it is clear that human and natural systems are inextricably linked across multiple spatial and temporal scales, the complexities of these interactions can be difficult to assess. Consequently, policy-makers require information on the vulnerability of both social and ecological systems, together with rates of change, to identify critical areas. By way of example, this study provides a framework for identifying global "social-ecological hotspots," where there is a spatial coincidence of high social vulnerability, high ecological vulnerability, and a high degree of projected environmental change. The primary scientific question that is posed and tested in this study is whether using a three-dimensional integrative framework to determine hotspots will produce qualitatively and quantitatively different results than looking at any one-dimensional analog alone. Categorically proportional indicators of ecological vulnerability, social vulnerability, and projected perturbation were identified, normalized, combined and analyzed to identify and map social-ecological hotspots. The ten highest composite scores, or the top 5% of all countries and territories used in the analysis, were considered hotspots. The average rank change for each country was also calculated to determine the relative impact of conducting an integrated analysis compared to an independent assessment of vulnerability or projected global change. Following other policy-relevant frameworks, this framework can be applied along three alternative Tiers of analysis consisting of different degrees of spatial resolution, conceptual detail, and data volume. The application of this integrated framework at the Tier 1 (simplest) level to 218 countries and territories recognized by the United Nations identified social-ecological hotspots that would not have been considered under a one dimensional analysis. This study suggests that an integrated framework provides novel information to inform multi-factor decision-making. Among the benefits of this approach is the development and use of standardized and categorically proportional indicators that convey vulnerability and perturbation with the same degree of spatial and conceptual resolution. The three-Tiered application of this framework also allows all decision-makers to identify areas of concern at levels most relevant to their policy objectives.