The Olympic Coast as a Sentinel: integrated social-ecological vulnerability assessments (text & video)

OA Week 2021, North American Hub Session

Dr. Jan Newton & Dr. Melissa Poe, University of Washington, USA


We present a place-based, transdisciplinary approach to assess ocean acidification vulnerability on a regional scale, highlighting a collaborative social-ecological research effort. Our study area, the Olympic Coast of Washington State, has been home for millennia to four coastal treaty tribes, and is already experiencing effects of ocean acidification, hypoxia, and marine heatwaves, which pose risks to marine resources that coastal communities and tribes depend on for their well-being. We bring together a variety of biophysical and social data across ocean spatial gradients and human systems to better understand the whole, to anticipate the effect of cumulative stressors, and to outline adaptive responses for healthy and resilient communities. Our place-based approach to assess regional vulnerability follows a process: scope local risk and priority needs; understand social importance of marine species; analyze variability in chemical and biological data; project future ocean conditions; assess frequency, duration, and location of harmful oceanographic events; evaluate risks to resources important to community partners; analyze socioeconomic conditions; assess social vulnerability to OA; identify community-driven strategies to respond to threats and increase adaptive capacity; provide critical information to decision-makers to prepare for and respond to OA vulnerabilities; monitor, evaluate, and reiterate. Working collaboratively, the project has strengthened regional partnerships, brought together a diverse constituency, and shown more deeply how connected things are and need to be going forward.

Ocean Acidification Week 2021 was sponsored by the following organizations:

(1) GOA-ON, the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network,

(2) NOAA, the United States National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration,

(3) IAEA OA-ICC, the International Atomic Energy Agency – Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre, and

(4) IOC-UNESCO – the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

For more information, please visit

GOA-ON, YouTube, 21 September 2021. Text and video.

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