Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Options: A Review of the Scientific Literature

This report offers an overview of information from published scientific literature that identifies physical changes in the climate, and vulnerabilities of tribal resources to climate change. Adaptation approaches and strategies are described in response to these vulnerabilities, across ecosystems and other sectors such as agriculture, public health, and energy systems. While the paper is aimed at tribes in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10, the Pacific Northwest, much of the material is generalized for all audiences. 

It is suggested that tribal nations must develop climate change adaptation plans to effectively respond to climate change, and outlines the following climate change adaptation process:

  1. Identify the types and magnitude of climate change impacts that are likely to occur in the region of concern
  2. Determine the sensitivity and potential vulnerabilities of ecosystems, natural resources, human health and well-being to these impacts
  3. Identify sustainable goals that consider the impacts of climate change
  4. Assess the current status (baseline conditions) of ecosystems, natural resources, human health and communities with respect to these goals
  5. Identify all feasible adaptation options that would meet the sustainable goals
  6. Select the most effective approach (set of options) based on available resources and the projected effectiveness of the approach in meeting the sustainable goals
  7. Select measurable indicators of climate change and periodically monitor these indicators to decide if the selected adaptation approach is effective, or whether an alternative approach would be more beneficial.

Projected climate impacts (as of 2010) and Adaptation Options or strategies (that remain relevant), are detailed for each of the following areas:

  • Ecosystems
  • Forest ecosystems
  • Freshwater resources
  • Coastal systems
  • Agriculture and food production
  • Human health
  • Energy production and use

As described in the report, there are seven adaptation approaches to manage natural systems for resilience: (1) protection of key ecosystem features, (2) reduction of anthropogenic stresses, (3) representation, (4) replication, (5) restoration, (6) refugia, and (7) relocation. Each of these approaches are reviewed and integrated into the adaptation options prescribed for ecological, agriculture, health and energy systems. 

Examples of adaptation strategies include: increasing redundancy and buffers, assisting transitions and range shifts, Integrated Water Resources Management, Integrated Coastal Zone Management, and the protection of important salmon populations through habitat restoration and conservation.  


Publication Date: January 6, 2010

Author or Affiliated User:

  • Keith A. Rose

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Planning guides


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