Coastal areas worldwide represent an aggregation of population and assets of growing economic, geopolitical, and sociocultural significance, yet their functions are increasingly challenged by worsening coastal hazards. Vulnerability assessments have been recognized as one way we can better understand which geographic areas and segments of society are more susceptible to adverse impacts from different stressors or hazards. The aims of this paper are to evaluate the state of coastal vulnerability assessment mapping efforts and to identify opportunities for advancement and refinement that will lead to more cohesive, impactful, and policy-relevant coastal vulnerability studies. We conducted a systematic review of the literature that addresses physical and social vulnerability to coastal hazards and contains corresponding mapping products. The content was analyzed for the scale of analysis, location, disciplinary focus, conceptual framework, metrics used, methodological approach, data sources, mapping output, and policy relevance. Results showed that most Coastal Vulnerability Mapping Assessments (CVMAs) are conducted at the local level using a range of methodologies, often with limited inclusion of social considerations and limited discussion of policy relevance. Based on our analysis, we provide seven recommendations for the advancement of this field that would improve CVMAs’ methodological rigor, policy relevance, and alignment with other vulnerability assessment paradigms.
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