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Research Report

Methods and Tools for Assessing the Vulnerability of Forests and People to Climate Change: An introduction

Bruno Locatelli
Hety Herawati
Maria Brockhaus
Monica Idinoba
Markku Kanninen
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2008
Pages: 28
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 5-5)

    Adaptation is necessary for reducing the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and societies. Various pertinent questions arise when planning and implementing adaptation in any system: What will be the impacts of climate change? To what extent is the system vulnerable? Who is vulnerable? What coping strategies exist? How can adaptation decrease impacts? What can we do to adapt? What institutional support is available to enhance adaptation? How to develop adaptation policies? (UNFCCC 2004). Many methods and tools are available to help scientists or practitioners address these questions.

    Methods and tools can help identify the impacts of climate change at...

  2. (pp. 6-8)

    Focus on methods and tools. This paper focuses on methods and tools rather than methodologies or approaches. A method is a set of steps or tasks and can be implemented through using a number of tools, i.e. a means or instrument used for accomplishing a specific task (UNFCCC 2005b). A methodology or an approach is a complete framework for guiding the assessment of vulnerability and adaptation (UNFCCC 2005a). It is composed of different methods and tools. The most commonly used frameworks are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) technical guidelines (Carter et al. 1994), the National Adaptation Programmes of...

  3. (pp. 9-12)

    Some generic methods and tools can be applied to ecosystems, social systems, or coupled socio-ecological system.

    In opposition to advanced simulation models of impacts or vulnerability that are not designed to be used by policymakers or stakeholders, methods and tools exist for involving stakeholders (including policymakers) in an assessment process. For instance, cognitive mapping and causal loop diagrams allow building formal models, either qualitative or quantitative (Giupponi et al. 2008).

    We describe below two generic methods and tools for vulnerability assessment involving stakeholders and experts. Other methods are described in Downing and Ziervogel (2004), such as brainstorming or checklists. Many...

  4. (pp. 13-15)

    Assessing vulnerability of or impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems can be done through experiments (e.g. artificially modifying precipitation reaching an ecosystem or increasing the concentration of CO2). However, modelling studies are less costly and more flexible than experiments. According to Price and Flannigan (2000), ‘It is hard to conceive of a meaningful impacts study that does not make some use of computer models’. We present different kinds of models used for ecosystem vulnerability assessment: models of partial ecosystem processes, simple ecosystem models and integrated ecosystem models.

    Managed forests. Most models of managed forests link forest productivity with environmental...

  5. (pp. 16-17)

    Several methods and tools are available for studying the vulnerability of social systems to climate change, changes in the provision of ecosystem services and other threats. Many generic methods and tools can be applied to vulnerability assessment, such as the social impact methods (World Bank 1996, 2003), the tools used in Participatory Action Research (see box 14) or other participatory tools (Rietbergen-McCracken and Narayan 1996).

    Understanding the context and the rationale behind the behaviour of a stakeholder is crucial for analysing vulnerability. Many methods and tools are available for this purpose. For example, stakeholder analysis is a systematic methodology for...

  6. (pp. 18-18)

    Some methods and tools have been developed for assessing the vulnerability of socio-ecological systems, taking into account the vulnerability of both ecosystems and people and their relationships. For example, the Advanced Terrestrial Ecosystem Analysis and Modelling (ATEAM, project developed a toolkit to assess where people or sectors may be vulnerable to the loss of ecosystem services as a consequence of climate and land use change. This approach highlights that the societal vulnerability to global change also results from impacts on ecosystems and the services they provide (Metzger et al. 2005; Metzger et al. 2006). The general framework is based...

  7. (pp. 19-19)

    Various methods and tools are available for assessing the vulnerability of forests, forest ecosystem services and forest-dependent people or economic sectors. Generic methods and tools can be applied to diverse systems for analysing vulnerability interactively with stakeholders (e.g. cognitive mapping or expert judgement) and for building empirical models from observations (e.g. meta-analysis or data mining). Indicators, fuzzy systems, and uncertainty analysis can be applied for various purposes.

    Numerous ecosystem models can be used for studying the impacts of climate change on forests. Some models are restricted to specific ecosystem processes (e.g. the productivity of managed forests, forest perturbations or specific...