Socioecological Typologies for Understanding Adaptive Capacity of a Region to Natural Disasters

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 13:40
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It is expected that the frequency and magnitude of extreme climatic events will increase in coming decades with an anticipated increase in losses from climate hazards. In the Gulf Coastal region of the United States, climate hazards/disasters are common including hurricanes, drought and flooding. However, the capacity to adapt to extreme climatic events varies across the region. This adaptive capacity is linked to the magnitude of the extreme event, exposed infrastructure, and the socio-economic conditions across the region. This study uses hierarchical clustering to quantitatively integrates regional socioeconomic and biophysical factors and develop socio-ecological typologies (SET). The biophysical factors include climatic and topographic variables, and the socio-economic variables include human capital, social capital and man-made resources (infrastructure) of the region. The types of the SET are independent variables in a statistical model of a regional variable of interest. The methodology was applied to US Gulf States to evaluate the social and biophysical determinants of the regional variation in social vulnerability and economic loss to climate hazards. The results show that the SET explains much of the regional variation in social vulnerability, effectively capturing its determinants. In addition, the SET also explains of the variability in economic loss to hazards across of the region. The approach can thus be used to prioritize adaptation strategies to reduce vulnerability and loss across the region.

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