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Assessing Vulnerability to Climate Change: Cordova Small Group Conversations


With the help of many Cordova community members, Dr. Marysia Symkowiak, NOAA Social Scientist, led a series of small-group conversations to assess the vulnerability of Cordova's fishing economy to climate change. With no widely accepted model for adaptation planning at the local level, communities across the state are working on their own to assess what climate change can mean for them.


Climate change is dramatically altering the marine ecosystem of the Gulf of Alaska with marine heat waves, changes in ocean circulation and stratification, and northern range shifts. As part of the Gulf of Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling Project, scientists are beginning to address the critical need to anticipate climate change impacts on the Gulf of Alaska marine ecosystem and its inhabitants. But there is no single framework for community adaptation planning, so we are relying on local voices and local experience to guide us through this process of planning under uncertainty.


These conversations among Cordova stakeholders -- fishermen, medical service and education leaders, fishery and aquaculture managers, business owners and financial lenders -- are a first step in working toward adaptation and mitigation strategies. Dr. Symkowiak led our group through a series of conversations this past April, 2023 by focusing on six different types of community capital and how they might be vulnerable to climate change effects. Assessing vulnerability involves getting a better understanding of the risks involved, the sensitivity of marine resources and their exposure to risk, and what is our adaptive capacity as a community.


A summary of stakeholder observations made during those meetings is posted here. Adaptation planning


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