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Protecting Cultural Resources in the Face of Climate Change

Connecting Climate Change and Cultural Resource Adaptation Decisions
Principal Investigator
Erin Seekamp


Start Date
End Date
Release Date


Climate change doesn’t just threaten our natural resources—it threatens our cultural resources, too. Cultural resources represent evidence of past human activity, such as archeological sites, or are of significance to a group of people traditionally associated with the resource, such as Native American ceremonial sites. Climate change is challenging the long-term persistence of many cultural resources. For example, those located in coastal areas, such as historic lighthouses, are threatened by sea-level rise, shoreline erosion, and more frequent severe storm events. While climate change challenges managers of both natural and cultural resources to make decisions in the face of uncertainty, far less work has been done to identify [...]

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“Cape Lookout National Seashore - Credit: Erin Seekamp”
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“Cape Lookout National Seashore - Credit: Erin Seekamp”
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“Cape Lookout National Seashore - Credit: Erin Seekamp”
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“Lookout Village, Cape Lookout National Seashore - Credit: Erin Seekamp”
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“Photo release Erin Seekamp”
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This project brings cultural resource management into local and regional decision contexts for climate change planning. Cultural resources hold multiple and diverse values to local communities, visitors and the public. Yet, sea level rise and episodic storm events threaten many coastal cultural resources. Strategies for climate adaptation or mitigation need to emerge from values-based decision processes that enable evaluations of the vulnerability and uniqueness of resources on a landscape. Such efforts will facilitate the prioritization of specific cultural resource management actions (move, stabilize, or document a resource). This project will use structured decision-making (SDM) with National Park Service personnel and other key stakeholders to assist National Park Service managers assess strategies for managing cultural resources within Portsmouth Village and Lookout Village at Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Project Extension

typeTechnical Summary
valueThis project aims to: (a) develop a conceptual framework for assessing cultural resources for climate change planning and decision-making; (b) develop a landscape scale cultural resources vulnerability index (CRVI); and (c) test the application of the CRVI in a local scale structured decision making process. Cultural resource management (CRM) has focused on the values and meanings of resources in localized contexts and, thus, has relied on inductive decision-making. An analytic deliberative decision context that integrates climate science could enable the prioritization of types of cultural resources within a larger landscape; yet, evaluations of cultural resources’ significance, association and integrity may be altered when evaluated in relation to the vulnerability of similar types of cultural resources within a regional landscape. At the landscape-level, the role of “place” within CRM is decontextualized and may need to be re-contextualized into local-level decision processes. This project begins by conducting a detailed review of CRM in practice (management and planning documents) and theory (peer-reviewed publications) to develop a multi-dimensional, multi-value and multi-attribute conceptual framework for assessing cultural resources in the context of climate change. With the input of a project advisory board (created through a stakeholder identification process), a cultural resource vulnerability index (CRVI)—based on climate change models—will be developed using a Delphi process that develops a cultural resources typology and a forum for refining the tool. The CRVI will be presented to CRM professionals and LCC stakeholders and further refined in a regional workshop. The CRVI’s practical implications be assessed in a structured decision making (SDM) process of Portsmouth Village (Cape Lookout National Seashore) that will also be informed by field research (historical, ethnographic, and visitor studies) to assess role of place and provide voice to stakeholders, thereby recontextualizing place in the discussion. A repeated measures survey tool will be used to assess the influence of the CRVI and the local context on the CRM decisions reached during the SDM.

Additional Information


Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC b0ef1eca-7733-499b-b54d-b687b9753a61
StampID NCCWSC SE14-SE0063

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