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Shifting Perspectives in Assessing Socio-Environmental Vulnerability

1
USDA Forest Service, PSW Research Station, Davis, CA 95618, USA
2
USDA Forest Service, PNW Research Station, Seattle, WA 98103, USA
3
Present: Forestry Department, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 2625; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072625
Received: 17 February 2020 / Revised: 23 March 2020 / Accepted: 24 March 2020 / Published: 26 March 2020
Governments and institutions across the globe are conducting vulnerability assessments and developing adaptation plans to confront rapidly changing climatic conditions. Interrelated priorities, including the conservation of biodiversity, ecological restoration, sustainable development, and social justice often underlie these efforts. We collaborated with colleagues in an effort to help guide vulnerability assessment and adaptation (VAA) generally in Southeast Asia and specifically in the watershed of the Sirindhorn International Environmental Park (SIEP) in Phetchaburi Province, Thailand. Reflecting upon our experiences and a review of recent VAA literature, we examine a series of seven questions that help to frame the socio-ecological context for VAAs. We then propose a three-dimensional framework for understanding common orientations of VAAs and how they appear to be shifting and broadening over time, particularly in the USA. For example, key leaders in the SIEP project emphasized social development and community-based approaches over more ecology-centric approaches; this orientation was consistent with other examples from SE Asia. In contrast, many efforts for US national forests have evaluated vulnerability based on projected shifts in vegetation and have promoted adaptation options based upon ecological restoration. Illustrating a third, highly integrated approach, many VAAs prepared by indigenous tribes in the USA have emphasized restoring historical ecological conditions within a broader context of promoting cultural traditions, social justice, and adaptive capacity. We conclude with lessons learned and suggestions for advancing integrated approaches. View Full-Text
Keywords: vulnerability and adaptation assessment; climate change; ecological restoration; watershed management; sustainable development; community-based assessment; indigenous peoples vulnerability and adaptation assessment; climate change; ecological restoration; watershed management; sustainable development; community-based assessment; indigenous peoples
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Long, J.W.; Steel, E.A. Shifting Perspectives in Assessing Socio-Environmental Vulnerability. Sustainability 2020, 12, 2625.

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