Vulnerability Assessments Make Decisions Easier in a Changing Climate

Only a few short miles from Al Gore’s speech on climate change and its effects the economy, Melinda Koslow (NWF), Jill Ryan (Freshwater Future), and Jennie Hoffman (EcoAdapt) spoke on a different aspect of climate change planning – the importance of incorporating climate adaptation into restoration projects. Planning to adapt to climate change can enhance projects and make them more effective in the long term, while strengthening ecosystems and improving conditions for wildlife.

The presentation attacked an overwhelming aspect of planning for climate change: uncertainty. For anybody working on restoration issues across the Great Lakes region, uncertainty, especially in the face of something so relevant as climate, can be a paralyzing element of decision-making. Fortunately, there are tools that can help us to inform decisions, specifically, vulnerability assessments.

Climate adaptation vulnerability assessments examine three main aspects of climate change as it relates to a specific target: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. Evaluating a species or project in terms of these three concerns can ameliorate the decision-making process for restoration projects.

The National Wildlife Federation and EcoAdapt created a thorough technical guidance document for implementing climate-smart restoration projects entitled Restoring the Great Lakes Coastal Future

The Duffield Branch of the Detroit Public Library: Preparing Detroit for Climate Change

One project in Detroit has already started addressing the recent trend of larger and more frequently storm events: the Duffield Branch of the Detroit Public Library built three rain gardens, not only to handle their own stormwater but as an education and outreach tool to get the surrounding community involved thinking about the effects of climate change and building rain gardens of their own. To build on this project, they’re beginning to engage the City Water Board and the Detroit City Council in thinking about how to expand this sort of project across Detroit. In the face of climate change, cities across the Great Lakes, including Detroit, will need to reevaluate things like infrastructure and disaster planning; projects like this are a step in the right direction in adapting to expected changes and improving the cityscape at the same time.

In this video, the West Grand Boulevard Collaborative talks about the project while planting some rain gardens!


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