Rapid Vulnerability Assessment Tool

The North American Marine Protected Area Rapid Vulnerability Assessment Tool was created to help marine protected area managers evaluate the implications of climate change for the resources they manage. The tool is introduced, and links are provided to download a user guide, blank worksheets and sample completed worksheets.


What is a Rapid Vulnerability Assessment?

Vulnerability Assessments are used to evaluate how climate change will affect your marine and coastal protected area in order to improve management approaches for long-term success. A Rapid Vulnerability Assessment is a modified version of this process that is:

  • Simple
  • Focused on your interests
  • Feasible based on what you already know
  • Feasible with the team you already have
  • Likely to improve your understanding of the climate impacts to your management goals and activities

The Rapid Vulnerability Assessment Tool is designed to be used in a 1-2 day workshop.

The Rapid Vulnerability Assessment Tool

This tool has three parts: a user guide, a set of blank worksheets, and a booklet containing samples of completed worksheets, that are available as downloadable PDFs. The blank worksheets are in a dynamic PDF format so that users can easily fill in, save and share their completed worksheets. The User Guide provides a narrative explanation of how to use the tool, while the example completed worksheets demonstrate the type and extent of information that should be entered into the worksheets. Together, they comprise a tool that can help marine protected area managers conduct a rapid vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategy development process.


How to Use This Tool

It is important to recognize that a Rapid Vulnerability Assessment can be used at a variety of scales. In its initial use, we recommend a simple assessment that considers no more than three habitat types, one timescale, three climate stressors, and three non-climate stressors. The marine and coastal protected areas being evaluated are no doubt much more complex than this. But modification can be made in subsequent iterations to assess a greater variety of factors, a finer-scale analysis or alternative features beyond habitat, such as species, management goals, or ecosystem services. For an initial use, consider selecting the features you know the best. Doing so will help you best learn how to use the tool effectively. You might also select the features you are most concerned about.

Who to Involve

While the rapid vulnerability assessment process can be undertaken by an individual manager to inform decisions at any level of decision-making, the full benefit of the tool is more likely to be realized when it is used as part of a collaborative discussion. For example, a discussion between a field unit superintendent, other site managers, technical/scientific staff (internal or external), representatives of neighboring jurisdictions (e.g., indigenous territories, municipalities) and other interested stakeholders (e.g., businesses, community groups, conservation organizations). In this collaborative approach, the tool can be used to not only guide decisions but also to foster common understanding of climate-relevant science, support delegation of activities, and share knowledge between organizations.

Preferably participants should have a breadth of knowledge regarding the habitat types being explored. However, if there are particular habitats (or species) of concern to the site, participants with expertise in those specific areas would also be ideal. Participants should feel comfortable making assessments of their site based on the information they possess or can access during the process. Prior to assembling a group to complete the assessment, it may be beneficial to have an initial discussion to determine which habitat types you will assess. This step will further assist users in determining who should participate and what additional resources might be useful to have at hand.

What You Need to Get Started

The most important tools for completing a Rapid Vulnerability Assessment are:

  • an interest in learning how climate change is affecting the site being evaluated;
  • knowledge of the site being evaluated (habitat types, basic ecological information, existing threats, management mechanisms);
  • awareness of relevant climate impacts and access to basic climate information to support your understanding; and
  • a day or two to spend applying that interest, knowledge and awareness to the Rapid Vulnerability Assessment Tool.

The Process (see the User Guide and Worksheets documents for details)

Step 1: Define the Scope of the Vulnerability Assessment (User Guide p. 5)
Goal: Define the scope and initial parameters of the rapid vulnerability assessment you aim to undertake.
Activity: Identify habitats to consider, significant climate change related variables, relevant non-climate stressors, and the timescale in which you are interested.

Step 2: Construct the Assessment Matrices (User Guide p. 8)
Goal: Set priorities for your vulnerability assessment and explore the vulnerability assessment components.
Activity: Transfer the information from Step 1 onto the worksheets you will employ to complete the vulnerability assessment.

Step 3: Undertake the Assessment (User Guide p. 9)
Goal: Apply your local knowledge to assess the implications of climate change for your site by habitat.
Activity: Describe and evaluate how climate and non-climate stressors will affect your site’s vulnerability.

Step 4: Adaptation Strategy Development (User Guide p. 17, Adaptation Actions Table and Adaptation Actions Search Tools)
Goal: Generate and evaluate adaptation strategies and implementation
Activity: Based on the vulnerabilities identified, develop management responses to reduce those vulnerabilities, and explore implementation considerations.

Step 5: Create Your Own Narrative Vulnerability Assessment Report (User Guide p. 20)
Goal: Help document and communicate your plan.
Activity: Transfer the results of the table to a narrative format to more easily share your plan.