Cultural heritage consists of non-renewable and irreplaceable resources, which represent the remains of our past and includes society’s past investments of economic, physical, natural and intellectual resources [1
]. Cultural heritage is either a tangible entity (e.g., archeological site, cultural landscape, historic district, historic site, historic building, historic structure, historic object) or cultural practice associated with a way of life (e.g., musical performance, craft production; [3
]). Moreover, cultural heritage plays an important role in providing tourism and recreation opportunities, enhancing economic development and growth, stimulating education and learning, and fostering cultural identity and a sense of place [4
In the United States, the National Park Service [6
], which manages and preserves both nationally significant natural and cultural heritage, estimated that for every tax dollar invested into NPS there is a return of $
10 to the economy from spending in the tourism and recreation sectors. For example, the Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York City generated about $
263 million from visitor spending and supported a total of 3352 jobs in 2016 [6
]. Yet, changing climate conditions (e.g., changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of storms and hurricanes) are affecting cultural resource management [7
] and the preservation of cultural values and the significance embodied in tangible cultural resources [9
] argues that our cultural human rights are being negatively affected by climate change through degradation and/or loss of cultural heritage. Although aspects and materials of cultural heritage have survived over the past centuries [11
], it is likely that cultural heritage may experience more severe climate change impacts in the coming decades [12
] and may not sustain management actions implemented to adapt to the previous types of impacts. Furthermore, research and policy guidance for managing cultural heritage under changing climate conditions has been incrementally increasing during the past decade e.g., [13
]. Yet, more efforts for proactive adaptation planning is needed [17
], particularly for heritage sites in coastal zones [18
], to both reduce the vulnerabilities of cultural resources to climate change impacts and facilitate more rapid and efficient responses to climate impacts as they occur [19
Climate change adaptation planning is a decision-making process that aims to moderate the harm or benefit from opportunities associated with current or potential future climate change impacts [12
]. Within the context of cultural heritage adaptation, Heathcote et al. [20
] described two types of adaptation strategies. The first is a set of low-risk strategies that focus on improving protection from changing climate conditions that are already happening, such as regular maintenance to ensure historic buildings are weather-proof. The second type are higher risk strategies, which require adjustment of practices or even changes to what cultural heritage management or historic preservation currently find acceptable, such as changes to historic buildings in areas of high flood risk making them more resilient to inundation and recovery. To design and implement transparent, acceptable and successful climate adaptation strategies, multi-level decision-making process is needed. This process can create collective action across multiple levels of government, non-governmental organizations, other public and private entities, and local communities [21
]. Additionally, multi-level decision-making can enhance a better understanding of the different values, priorities, and risk perceptions, as well as support social learning and co-production of knowledge [9
Nevertheless, in climate change adaptation processes, it is critically important to recognize and identify the barriers that can impede adaptation planning and the implementation of strategies [25
]. Understanding barriers can increase the effectiveness of adaptation responses to current and potential future climatic changes, prioritize adaptation strategies, and prevent or minimize misallocated decision-making efforts, e.g., [26
]. Importantly, barriers to cultural heritage adaptation or historic preservation globally have not been yet well understood [13
This paper aims to identify and characterize perceived barriers hindering heritage preservation in the face of current and future climatic changes. We explicitly selected an emic approach to elicit and document the salient opinions of cultural resource and heritage preservation experts rather than impose the a priori ideas of our research team (etic approach; see [29
] for a full discussion of emic versus etic research approaches). Additionally, this paper explores the interdependencies of barriers, as well as identifies policy and practice needs for overcoming the barriers identified. To simplify our presentation, we use the term “heritage preservation” to encompass the fields of cultural resource management and historic preservation, and refer to “cultural resources” or “cultural heritage” as the tangible, physical remains (e.g., historic and archeological buildings, structures and objects) located within “cultural landscapes” (e.g., historic and archeological districts and sites). Furthermore, we confined our study to the context of coastal climate change impacts within the southeastern region of the United States.
In this paper, we define vulnerability as the probability of losing significant cultural resources (and losses to the significance of cultural resources) from climate variability or change [9
]. As such, a cultural resource’s vulnerability is characterized by its presence in a location that could be adversely affected by a climatic event (i.e., exposure) and the degree to which its significance could be affected by that exposure (i.e., sensitivity) [19
]. To define significance, we adopt the criteria outlined for listing cultural resources in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), which specifies “the quality of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association” [3
]. The listing criteria further delineates significance as the association with an historical event, significant person, distinctive physical characteristics of design, construction or form, or a resource that holds or has the potential to yield important information in prehistory or history. Moreover, the NPS issued Policy Memorandum 14-02 [30
] that explicitly states that vulnerability and significance must be evaluated so that management action is directed to cultural resources that are both significant and most at risk from climate change.
Barriers to Heritage Preservation and Climate Adaptation
Barriers are obstacles, constraints, or hurdles that impede climate adaptation or make adaptation impossible to achieve [12
]. In climate change contexts, barriers arise due to characteristics of the individuals involved, the nature of the systems involved, and the larger context within which the individuals and systems operate [28
]. Barriers can prevent building adaptive capacity, hinder implementation of adaptation measures, slow down the uptake of adaptation in policy, lead to policy failure, constrain individual engagement or action, or prevent the uptake of new frameworks and tools to support adaptation [12
]. Matasci et al. [31
] document that barriers arise at all phases of the adaptation process, including recognizing climate change impacts, undergoing adaptation planning, deciding to act, and implementing adaptation strategies. Additionally, barriers are often interdependent of each other, where barriers from different categories co-occur or reinforce each other [26
]. Understanding these interdependencies of barriers is central for explaining their occurrence and persistence, as well as determining how to overcome them [26
]. Moser and Ekstrom [28
] suggested that barriers can be overcome with leadership, strategic thinking, resourcefulness, creativity, collaboration, and effective communication between multi-level actors.
While there is a growing research interest on barriers to adaptation for various socio-ecological systems [23
], research on identifying and overcoming barriers in the heritage preservation discipline is relatively limited [13
]. In response, the NPS has been focusing considerable attention incorporating climate change in planning, prioritization and decision-making for natural and cultural heritage. The Secretarial Order No. 3289 [33
] demonstrates the urgent need to plan and develop climate change adaptation strategies for cultural heritage; however, few efforts have made it to the implementation stage [19
]. Therefore, there is a need to identify the specific barriers at all stages of adaptation process, which can bridge the gap between climate change science and climate adaptation planning and implementation for heritage preservation.
A rising discourse around barriers to cultural resource adaptation in the published literature is constructed broadly around four dimensions: institutional, technical, financial and social barriers. Institutional barriers to cultural research adaptation, including limited legislative instruments or the absence of policies and guidelines, can impede the design and implementation of adaptation strategies e.g., [10
]. Similarly, political inertia and a lack of flexibility can hinder successful climate adaptation of cultural heritage e.g., [14
]. Furthermore, limited of awareness climate change science and the lack of partnerships and collaborations between local, state and national levels can pose barriers to effective adaptation e.g., [39
Technical barriers to heritage preservation under changing climate conditions can relate to inefficient or the lack of technical skills for making decision about adaptation, e.g., [34
], as well as to limited procedures for gathering data or monitoring cultural resource conditions e.g., [41
]. Further, research on the climate change impacts on cultural resources is limited [39
]; when coupled with climate change uncertainty, this knowledge insufficiency may hinder adaptation or preservation, e.g., [24
Social barriers to adaptation can arise from various factors, such as the perceptions, values and norms found within society or the decision-making sphere [23
]. For example, Sherren et al. [48
] found that cultural values, symbolism, and place attachment were considerable barriers to the adaptation planning of a cultural landscape. Limited motivation and the willingness to act [45
], as well as conflicting perceptions about the viability of adaptation or preservation strategies [41
], have also emerged as major factors constraining climate adaptation processes.
Financial barriers in a heritage adaptation and preservation contexts are primarily related to the lack of funding, but also to limited tax incentives for sustainable maintenance [39
], limited access to financial resources, and changing market dynamics [45
]. Additionally, limited financial willingness to mobilize funding for research and new technologies have been identified as a substantial barrier e.g., [15
]. Phillips [41
] also notes that climate adaptation requires significant financial investments; however, the financial benefits of adapting cultural resources are often less clear, possibly due to conflicting planning time-scales [39
It is worth noting that technical barriers often interact with financial and social adaptation barriers [12
]. For instance, certain technologies and technical skills that may overcome institutional barriers (e.g., a tool that facilitates the prioritization of funding allocations) may not be widely accepted from a socio-cultural perspective (e.g., stakeholders’ individual preferences and values). Despite the plausibility of interactions, research in heritage preservation has largely been singular, identifying either institutional, financial, technical, or social barriers that hinder climate change adaptation process. To enable more durable and efficient responses to the challenges that adaptation presents, there is a need to move beyond single-disciplinary assessments and identify inter-disciplinary barriers for climate adaptation of cultural heritage. Outside of the heritage preservation field, Eisenack et al. [26
] highlight the importance of understanding how barriers are related to each other and how these may change over time. Similarly, Moser [49
] recognized the need for more empirical studies to explore the growing importance of barriers to adaptation. Therefore, this paper seeks to advance our understanding of barriers—and the interdependencies of those barriers—to climate change adaptation for heritage preservation, as well as to identify possible solutions for overcoming these challenges.
4. Discussion and Conclusions
The barriers to climate change adaptation for heritage preservation identified in this study generally align with those presented in the currently few scholarly publications on this topic, which were outlined in the introduction to this paper. To the best of our knowledge, this paper presents the first attempt to specifically document barriers to climate change adaptation for heritage preservation and identify strategies for overcoming those barriers. Our emic approach specifically sought to categorize the barriers and needs most salient to cultural resource and historic preservation experts. Although we contextualized our study with coastal climate change impacts to cultural resources in the southeastern U.S., we found that the heritage preservation barriers and strategies to overcome those barriers are likely transferable to other regions and, perhaps, national and international scales.
We found that climate adaptation efforts for heritage preservation are impeded by institutional, technical and financial barriers, and that these three types of barriers are often interdependent. Additionally, while there are only a few studies that discuss how barriers can be overcome, e.g., [26
], we identified some institutional, technical and financial needs to overcome the barriers identified. Importantly, this study demonstrates that barriers to heritage preservation were often identified and discussed as both barriers and needs, revealing the interchangeable perspectives provided within expert opinion. As such, barriers are not insurmountable or absolute, but can just as easily be seen as future opportunities for improving cultural resource management and heritage preservation. For instance, the lack of a prioritization process for adapting cultural resources to climate change impacts was identified as meaningful limitation within current preservation planning efforts. Yet, increasing research and improving knowledge of the various intersections of climate change and cultural heritage was one of the most salient means of developing a climate adaptation prioritization process to reduce the vulnerability of cultural resources.
Principal among the challenges described by experts were institutional barriers related to climate adaptation planning processes, policy guidance, and management guidelines. Conversely, a lack of political commitment and the lack of a sense of urgency—both of which were related to concerns about climate change skepticism or limited climate literacy—were less salient barriers, suggesting that the development of climate adaptation policies and practices may not be limited by changing political ideologies [56
]. As such, there seems to be a pressing need for developing processes and procedures that enable adapting cultural resources to climate change impacts in ways that best sustain or reinforce the significant values embedded in those resources. Such efforts are in their infancy, such as the Climate for Culture initiative in the EU [57
] and the Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy in the US [19
], and will require ongoing research to evaluate their effectiveness.
Similar to previous studies focusing on cultural heritage threatened by environmental or climate change, e.g., [15
], our study confirms that limited policies and guidelines for the preservation of diverse cultural heritages, coupled with poor multi-level governance that spans territorial boundaries, pose fundamental threats to heritage preservation and climate adaptation. We found that overcoming such institutional barriers needs to involve building internal capacity, such as increasing research of climate change impacts to cultural resources, research on feasible adaptation strategies for diverse types of cultural resources, improving technical skills, enhancing partnerships among multi-level actors, and fostering political advocacy for climate adaptation among decision-makers. These findings are in accordance with Moser and Ekstrom’s [28
] prior research on barriers to climate adaptation of socio-ecologic systems. Additionally, Maus [10
] argued that—due to the absence of international policies for safeguarding cultural heritage at risk from climate change—the inclusion of a human-rights-based approach could add an additional normative layer to the debate and, thus, enforce or increase the level of international obligation. As the experts who participated in this study did not specifically mention any social barriers or needs, research that specifically targets the viability of this strategy and other socio-cultural solutions are needed.
Some recent studies conducted in Australia, Canada, U.K., and the U.S. found that climate adaptation prioritization is needed to make transparent decisions between what cultural resources to protect and preserve (for both current and future generations) and what cultural resources to release or “let go” e.g., [9
]. As such, prioritization decisions need to be informed by deliberation with multi-level actors about feasible strategies that integrate the significance of cultural resources with climate change vulnerabilities to ensure continued preservation of diverse heritage values and resources [61
]. Such deliberative and proactive planning process can also prevent the misuse of power and interests of some actors that were involved in the past cultural heritage management decisions. In this sense, Head [62
]) suggests that decision-makers should avoid the limitations of some past cultural heritage management or preservation decisions and enhance their operation with new techniques and approaches. As Tansey [46
] argues, multi-level actors need to develop awareness of and plan for climate change impacts before detrimental conditions become fully manifested, and that managers need to embed climate change adaptation and prioritization into their advocacy and outreach activities.
Relatedly, the experts participating in this study noted that additional research on climate adaptation strategies and the significance of cultural resources—and training to improve technical expertise—could support successful preservation activities given current and future climate change impacts. These findings corroborate the observations of other researchers who have noted that planning and implementing climate adaptation strategies can be impeded by ongoing knowledge and skill insufficiencies, particularly related to evaluating preservation strategies, monitoring of and interpreting changes to materials and the values embedded within cultural resources, and understanding the acceptance of permanent losses to cultural heritage e.g., [36
]. Moreover, Phillips [41
] documents that even though knowledge and skills of adaptation may exist among various government levels, at a local site level, actors may not be fully knowledgeable. To overcome such barriers, Cassar and Pender [39
] suggest cross-disciplinary cooperation as a necessary pathway to share information and best practices. Again, this study substantiates these suggestions by documenting expert opinion about the ability to overcome technical barriers by enhancing collaborative partnerships among various multi-level actors, exchanging experiences and practices through organized trainings, workshops and conferences, as well as by fostering more supportive and collaborative cross-disciplinary (i.e., integration of natural and cultural resources) decision-making.
Yet, the need for knowledge and technical skills are closely intertwined with financial barriers. Financial barriers (e.g., lack of funding for continued stewardship of cultural heritage, lack of funding for advancing climate change research and cultural heritage documentation, lack of funding for opportunities to improve technical skills) were put forward as impediments to successful climate adaptation of cultural resources. Insufficient funding for maintenance—let alone funding for climate adaptation planning and implementation—can exacerbate the deterioration of cultural resources and result in permanent cultural heritage losses [35
]. Tansey [46
] explains that different cultural heritage types (e.g., archives, archeological sites, historical buildings) often must compete for financial investments and that without early involvement in institutional adaptation efforts by an advocate or interest group, some aspects of cultural heritage are unlikely to be a financial priority.
These financial concerns are not isolated to the U.S. context, as research conducted in the U.K. demonstrates limited funding for cultural heritage, generally, and between cultural and natural resources, specifically. For example, Cassar and Pender [39
] suggest that a more equitable balance is needed between funding for cultural heritage maintenance, tax incentives for sustainable maintenance, and funding for technical skills. Additionally, Flatman [15
] suggests that, without holistic management of cultural heritage and natural resources in coastal and marine environments, there is a direct threat to the protection of cultural heritage, as cultural heritage in the marine zone is often considered the lowest possible priority, particularly in comparison to natural resource conservation agendas. Thus, it seems prudent to expand the heritage preservation and climate change adaptation dialogue to more holistic (and international) audiences, including those policy- and decision-makers charged with setting budget priorities at various governmental levels, the natural resources field, and diverse stakeholder arenas.
Including the traditional knowledge and skills of local communities in climate adaptation efforts can reinforce and strengthen heritage preservation e.g., [38
], which should include engagement in research, planning and implementation efforts. As suggested by UNESCO [16
], research can serve as a means for capacity building among diverse multi-actors and to raise awareness among the public who, in turn, may help build public and political support for climate adaptation of cultural heritage. It is possible then that increased climate literacy could create the political impetus needed for new funding mechanisms or bolstered budget allocations for heritage preservation and climate adaptation research, planning and training.
Lafrenz Samuels [2
] argued that cultural heritage can foster social understandings of phenomena that span generations like climate change. As such, understanding barriers is not only the key for scientific progress, but it can be a vital step to support politicians and decision-makers prepare for and manage barriers to climate change impacts [25
]. The novelty of this study lies in our emic approach to documenting the barriers and needs salient to heritage preservation experts, as well as our analytical process for identifying interdependencies among institutional, technical and financial barriers. We hope that this effort will not only result in needed research and political support but also foster capacity-buildings efforts with cultural resource managers to plan for and respond to current and future climate change impacts. Additionally, we hope that this paper will encourage other scholars to contribute to this vital research, expanding our approach to other cultural resources, regions, and climate change impacts. Ultimately, securing the future of cultural heritage requires institutional, technical and financial solutions for preservation under changing climate conditions.