Multi-Criteria Decision Approach for Climate Adaptation of Cultural Resources Along the Atlantic Coast of the Southeastern United States: Application of AHP Method

Abu SMG Kibria, Erin Seekamp, Xiao Xiao, Soupy Dalyander, Mitchell Eaton
Posted on: 5/24/2024 - Updated on: 5/24/2024

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Prioritizing climate adaptation actions is often made difficult by stakeholders and decision-makers having multiple objectives, some of which may be competing. Transparent, transferable, and objective methods are needed to assess and weight different objectives for complex decisions with multiple interests. 

In this study, the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) was used to examine priorities in managing cultural resources in the face of climate change at Cape Lookout National Seashore on the Atlantic coast of the southeastern United States. In this process, we conducted facilitated discussion sessions with the selected stakeholder representatives to elicit a comprehensive list of management objectives. Objectives were then merged into three categories: 

  1. Maximize retention of historic character and condition (HCC)
  2. Foster heritage awareness (HA)
  3. Maximize financial benefits (FB)

We facilitated two AHP exercise sessions, both individually and in groups, to seek consensus on the relative importance of the objectives. The AHP process created a space for stakeholders (government agencies and local citizens) to consider and present arguments that we used to contextualize their trade-offs between the objectives. The stakeholders' top priority was to maximize the HCC. This objective was prioritized more than HA and FB in the individual trade-off choices, while HA was given nearly equal priority to FB. The consensus priority vectors of two management objectives (HCC and HA) differ significantly from FB, but the difference between HCC and HA is slight and not statistically different. FB and HA had larger changes in consensus priority vectors among the three objectives relative to individual priority vectors. For HCC, the difference between individual and consensus priority vectors was the smallest and nearly equal. Moreover, very high levels of consistency were found in consensus priority trade-off discussions and AHP application. 

Our research highlights the advantage of using a two-step AHP process in climate adaptation planning of vulnerable resources to enhance robustness in decision making. Coupling this approach with future efforts to develop management priorities would help estimate indices to determine the order in which adaptation treatments are applied to vulnerable cultural resources.


Kibria, A.S.M.G., Seekamp, E,. Xiao, X., Dalyander, S., Eaton, M. (2024). Multi-criteria decision approach for climate adaptation of cultural resources along the Atlantic coast of the southeastern United States: Application of AHP method. Climate Risk Management, 43: 100587.

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