A Method to Assess Climate-Relevant Decisions: Applications in the Chesapeake Bay (External Review Draft)

The goals of EPA’s Global Change Research Program (GCRP) are to assess the potential effects of climate change on water quality, air quality, ecosystem health, and human health, and to provide decision makers with information and tools that enable them to incorporate considerations of climate change into their decision making processes.

In order to better accomplish these goals, the GCRP sponsored this study to formalize an approach to inventory and analyze management decisions in order to help decision makers better target their efforts as it pertains to effective resource and ecosystem adaptation to climate change. Steps presented include: (1) selecting a study area and compiling a list of key decisions (2) developing criteria for evaluating the climate-relevance of decisions; (3) applying the criteria to select decisions that are potentially sensitive to climate change; (4) soliciting expert judgment regarding those selections (and refine the selections accordingly); and (5) testing alternative weighting schemes for prioritizing decisions most in need of decision support or additional research based on the selected attributes.

The Chesapeake Bay was selected as the subject area for the pilot study because decision making occurs at several levels (e.g., state, multi-state, federal including EPA and other federal agencies), management is concerned with both water quality and aquatic ecosystem decisions, and decisions that affect actions implemented on the ground are readily identifiable. Of over 146 water quality and aquatic ecosystem practices, the process allowed this list to be narrowed down to 32 practices. Those practices that were eliminated were ones that are either insensitive to climate change stressors and would have no effect on reducing potential climate change impacts, or have short lifespans and therefore could be adjusted periodically to address changing climatic conditions (such as grass-planted riparian buffer strips). The remaining 14 water quality decisions and 18 aquatic ecosystem protection decisions represent good opportunities for developing adaptation strategies within the Chesapeake Bay. Examples of these include: urban stream restoration, stormwater management infiltration, managing fishery harvest levels, and living shorelines.

Results of this study are immediately useful to decision makers by informing them on the degree to which management of ecosystems depends on practices that are sensitive to climate change and whether their environmental goals are in danger of not being met. It also gives decision makers some sense of the magnitude of effort needed to address climate change effects in their plans.

In order to maintain access to this website, we are linking to an archived version of the website saved on January 10, 2017. The original link can be found here: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/global/recordisplay.cfm?deid=227483

Publication Date: June 2010

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Susan H. Julius
  • Britta G. Bierwagen
  • Chris Pyke
  • J. Randall Freed
  • Susan Asam

Related Organizations:


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Resource Types:

  • Assessment guide

States Affected:


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