The Vulnverability Cube: A Multi-Dimensional Framework for Assessing Relative VulnerabilityReport as inadecuate

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Environmental Management

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 631–643

First Online: 03 June 2011Received: 30 September 2010Accepted: 25 April 2011


The diversity and abundance of information available for vulnerability assessments can present a challenge to decision-makers. Here we propose a framework to aggregate and present socioeconomic and environmental data in a visual vulnerability assessment that will help prioritize management options for communities vulnerable to environmental change. Socioeconomic and environmental data are aggregated into distinct categorical indices across three dimensions and arranged in a cube, so that individual communities can be plotted in a three-dimensional space to assess the type and relative magnitude of the communities’ vulnerabilities based on their position in the cube. We present an example assessment using a subset of the USEPA National Estuary Program NEP estuaries: coastal communities vulnerable to the effects of environmental change on ecosystem health and water quality. Using three categorical indices created from a pool of publicly available data socioeconomic index, land use index, estuary condition index, the estuaries were ranked based on their normalized averaged scores and then plotted along the three axes to form a vulnerability cube. The position of each community within the three-dimensional space communicates both the types of vulnerability endemic to each estuary and allows for the clustering of estuaries with like-vulnerabilities to be classified into typologies. The typologies highlight specific vulnerability descriptions that may be helpful in creating specific management strategies. The data used to create the categorical indices are flexible depending on the goals of the decision makers, as different data should be chosen based on availability or importance to the system. Therefore, the analysis can be tailored to specific types of communities, allowing a data rich process to inform decision-making.

KeywordsDecision assessment Vulnerability National Estuary Program Socioeconomic Land use Estuary condition Typologies  Download fulltext PDF

Author: Brenda B. Lin - Philip E. Morefield



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