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Aleutian and Bering Climate Vulnerability Assessment (ABCVA)

The climate is changing in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands region. Residents, stakeholders, scientists, and natural resource managers are all concerned about the impacts of future climate change on important species, systems, and habitats. 

But projections of future climate are necessarily uncertain, and different approaches have different strengths and limitations. With variation in projections, and with different impacts depending on species and systems of concern, how can stakeholders and managers realistically anticipate and plan for the impacts of climate change?

Vulnerability assessments may provide one answer. A vulnerability assessment is a well-developed, systematic way to “synthesize and integrate scientific information, quantitative analyses, and expert-derived information in order to determine the degree to which specific resources, ecosystems, or other features of interest are susceptible to the effects of climate change” (USFS 2011)

The Aleutian and Bering Climate Vulnerability Assessment (ABCVA) integrates projections from two recent climate downscaling approaches; one from the Bering Sea Project, and one from the Spatial Tools for Arctic Mapping and Planning (STAMP) project. Results from these two efforts will be reviewd by an expert team to assess the vulnerability of key resources and ecosystem services within the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands region including:

Key Resources Ecosystem Services

•       Seabirds
•       Marine Mammals
•       Fishes
•       Invertebrates/Shellfish
•       Cultural Artifacts/Sites
•       Terrestrial Vegetation

•       Commercial Fishing
•       Subsistence Culture
•       Human Community Sustainability

Our Timeline and Process

Beginning in fall of 2013 we recruited a volunteer team of 30 experts with knowledge about key resources and ecosystem services (listed above) to help us conduct this vulnerability assessment. This group assembled at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium on January 2014, to work with climate scientists to ensure common understanding of climate projections for the region and overall project objectives.

Key milestones along way have included:

  • A December 17, 2013 webinar hosted by ACCAP officially launched the project. The video recording of the webinar is hosted on the ACCAP site and is also available as a pdf.

  • Oral presentations by Dr. Nick Bond and Dr. John Walsh were given at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium to share results of their recent climate downscaling efforts that are being used for this assessment (see Data Portals below).

  • A stakeholder workshop took place on Friday, January 24, 2014 at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage featuring a presentation introducing the project as well as an explanation of some key downscaling outputs by Dr. Bond and some early thinking about vulnerabilities of fisheries offered by Dr. Gordon Kruse.

  • We conducted a town hall session September 18 in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and piloted the use of audience response technology to gather perspectives on climate change and those results are shared here. Sadly, we were weathered out of a similar presentation planned around Bering Sea Days in St. Paul in October.

  • At a Structured Decision Making workshop in December of 2014 our expert team prioritized recommendations for further research made within 4 chapters of the draft vulnerability assessment.

  • The project methods and initial results were presented at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in January of 2015

The assessment has undergone peer review and we expect to release the final in September of 2015 along with an interactive web document that tells the story of the project from process through to results.

Publications Guiding Our Approach:

• Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Vulnerability Assessment

Choosing and Using Climate Change Scenarios by Snowver et al. (2013)

A multivariate analysis of observed and modeled biophysical variability on the Bering Shelf by Hermann et al. (2013)

Data Portals

Access portal to the downscaled climate projections from the Bering Sea Project 

Access to the climate projections from SNAP for Alaskan communities

Access to the climate projections from SNAP for extreme weather events


This project is a collaboration between the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands LCC (ABSI LCC), the Alaska Climate Science Center (AK CSC) and the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS).  Our leadership team is: Jeremy Littell (AK CSC), Aaron Poe (ABSI LCC), Ellen Tyler (AOOS), and Tom Van Pelt (AOOS). 
The results of this vulnerability assessment will be shared broadly with managers, stakeholders and researchers in the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea region and will be used to identify and prioritize key science needs for future joint efforts by the ABSI LCC and AK CSC.  Please contact Aaron if you have questions or ideas about this project. 


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