~ Step 2: Assess

Consider Future Conditions

This step includes assessing future conditions in the planning area. Climate change will affect different coastal and marine areas in different ways. Assessing the near-, medium-, and long-term impacts of these changes in the planning region can help increase awareness and support for developing a climate-informed plan. Undertaking a vulnerability assessment can help guide the development of climate-informed plans.

Vulnerability refers to the extent to which a resource is susceptible to harm from climate change. Vulnerability assessments can help communities identify what resources are most vulnerable and why. These assessments are tools that can help planners and managers:

  • Prioritize conservation targets
  • Develop climate adaptation strategies 
  • Efficiently allocate resources and capacity

There are three components to effective vulnerability assessments: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. 

Vulnerability = (Exposure + Sensitivity) – Adaptive Capacity

  1. Exposure is a measure of how much of a change in climate or other environmental factor(s) a resource is likely to experience.
  2. Sensitivity is a measure of whether and how a resource is likely to be affected by a given change in climate.
  3. Adaptive capacity is the ability of a resource to accommodate or cope with climate change impacts with minimal disruption.

Vulnerability increases as exposure and sensitivity increase and as adaptive capacity decreases.


Key Questions:

  • What climatic changes are the planning area experiencing/expected to experience? Consider trend, frequency, intensity, and duration of impacts.
  • Are there non-climate stresses that may affect responses to climate change?
  • What coastal and marine resources will be affected and how? 
  • What resources may experience the greatest amount of damage?
  • What resources do the CMSP team have that could be used to address climate change (e.g., technological, financial)? 
  • How well do these resources enable team to adjust to change?

Spatial Considerations:

As part of this step, it may be important to spatially define these vulnerabilities. Identifying and mapping the areas at greatest risk from climate change and overlaying these with coastal and marine infrastructure, habitats, and vulnerable communities can help with prioritizing specific areas for management focus.


Action 4. Adjust existing data and maps to reflect potential changes over time

Case Study: Incorporating climate change in marine use plans for British Columbia’s First Nations

EcoAdapt partnered with the Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) in 2012-2015 to facilitate the integration of climate change into marine use plans. EcoAdapt conducted a science-based effort to identify where and to what degree the region’s important coastal and marine natural and cultural resources are likely to be affected by changing climate conditions. The vulnerability maps highlight areas likely to change more or less under climate change based on observed and projected changes. These data layers were then overlaid on comparative maps of important natural and cultural resources. The maps can help managers understand where and to what degree resource vulnerabilities may occur due to climate change, and can be used to develop and prioritize adaptation strategies. For example, salt marshes in the MaPP region are vulnerable to sea level rise. When salt marsh distribution is compared with sea level rise projections, the most change is visible along the north and west coast of Graham Island and in the North Coast Fjords (up to 1.32 meters of rise by 2100). Salt marshes may be able to migrate inland as sea level rise as long as coastal development does not impede their movement, so limiting development behind salt marshes in these most vulnerable areas may be the best course of action.


Action 5. Create new data, maps, and conservation targets to reflect climate-specific concerns

Case Study: BaltSeaPlan: Seven nations, one vision for an inland sea

The BaltSeaPlan project was a US$3.8 million (€3.7 million) project aimed at gaining as much practical experience and understanding of integrated maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea region as possible, as well as providing recommendations for the development of national maritime strategies for seven Baltic Sea countries (Germany, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Denmark). The plan highlights the need to model existing trends into the future and to incorporate climatic changes and impacts into those models. For example, modeling was used to quantify the separate and combined impacts of nutrient loading and changes in climate (e.g., temperature, salinity, and wind conditions) on phytoplankton, submerged aquatic vegetation, and benthic invertebrates. This information was used to assess changes in the spatial patterns of valuable habitats and associated biodiversity, and to inform the final management plan for the Baltic Sea region. 


Action 6. Emphasize connections between terrestrial and ocean systems

Case Study: New York Ocean Action Plan: Managing coastal, marine, and land-based activities

The New York Ocean Action Plan (OAP) is a collaborative effort to manage the state’s coastal, estuarine, and ocean waters, from New York City to Montauk Point out to the edge of the outer continental shelf. The geographic scope of the plan includes the estuarine waters of the Peconic Estuary, Hudson River Estuary, and NY/NJ Harbor Estuary, Long Island Sound, Great South Bay, Jamaica Bay, Moriches Bay, Hempstead Bay, and Shinnecock Bay. The plan requires that sediment management plans consider the effects of climate change. The availability of sand for dune and beach renourishment projects to limit erosion is essential under changing climate conditions and related effects on sea level and storminess. The existing state dredging schedule for the state’s barrier islands is deemed by the plan to be inadequate, particularly due to the recent increased frequency and intensity of coastal storms in the region. In addition, the plan explicitly acknowledges the need for land-based activities to be managed in order to limit negative impacts on coastal and marine systems.