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View: Abstract

Assessing regional vulnerability by operationalizing the concept of adaptive capacity in the Pacific Northwest

Trask, B. 2007. Assessing regional vulnerability by operationalizing the concept of adaptive capacity in the Pacific Northwest. M.M.A. thesis, School of Marine Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle.


This thesis explores indicators for operationalizing social adaptive capacity in socialecological systems in a testable manner. Adaptive capacity represents the potential to adapt, not the adaptation itself, and is an important component in assessing the vulnerability of a system. Adaptive capacity addresses system vulnerability to exogenous stresses like climate change. I survey a portion of the literature on vulnerability and adaptive capacity to acquire a definition applicable to the scope and scale for two locations in the Pacific Northwest. By doing so I engage the literature to initiate a regional vulnerability assessment. Such an assessment could serve as an important input in the process of developing plausible futures scenarios by incorporating environmental change and uncertainty present when addressing climate change. Through a better understanding of how adaptive capacity applies at these different spatial scales in the Pacific Northwest, it may be applied toward improved decision-making, particularly related to scenario planning.