Climate change is affecting human and geophysical systems in a variety of complex and interdependent ways. For nature-based tourism-dependent communities like those along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, impacts to the region’s abundant natural resources can subsequently affect the livelihoods of individuals who depend upon those resources to provide essential ecosystem services and support the region’s economy. Many of the area’s natural and outdoor recreation resources are collaboratively managed, making cooperation essential to address climate change impacts. In this study, we engaged North Shore stakeholders in a climate change risk assessment process through an exploratory application of participatory geographic information systems (PGIS). Stakeholder involvement allows for the co-production of science to deliver locally-relevant data and information. Involving stakeholders through a PGIS-based climate change risk assessment process allows locally-relevant data and information to be represented and visualized spatially. We used PGIS focus groups, as well as pre- and post-surveys, to solicit stakeholders’ perceptions of risk thresholds (i.e., the time scale of impacts) and climate-related risk severity to sites with built infrastructure, natural amenities, and recreation and tourism destinations. The stakeholders’ knowledge, as well as their commitment to their communities and local environments, influenced general perceptions of region-wide climate-related vulnerabilities. The PGIS exercises generated important discussion among stakeholders and shed light on how to more efficiently collect spatially-explicit data and information from stakeholders that can be used to inform mitigation and adaptation efforts.
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