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PUBLICATION NOTICE: A Review of Coastal Vulnerability Assessments: Definitions, Components, and Variables 

US Army Engineer Research and Development Center
Published July 8, 2019

The US Army Engineer Research and Development Center has published the report/note described and linked below. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

Report Number:



A Review of Coastal Vulnerability Assessments: Definitions, Components, and Variables 


Christine VanZomeren and Damarys Acevedo-Mackey


Coastal zones are dynamic environmental systems providing an interface between land and sea. Coastal zones are also dynamic socioeconomic systems that support concentrated populations and critical infrastructure. Coastal features provide an array of ecological services including wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, water filtration, erosion protection, and storm/flood protection. Provision of these services is dependent upon the resiliency of these vulnerable coastal environments to climate change, and changes in sea level and storm frequency/intensity. This report summarizes coastal vulnerability assessments based on peer-reviewed journal articles and published reports. Topics addressed include (1) an introduction to coastal vulnerability, (2) factors contributing to coastal vulnerability, (3) a review and synthesis of coastal vulnerability assessment methods, and (4) knowledge gaps and opportunities for additional research. The variables most commonly used for vulnerability assessments are reduced to 13 variables that apply across geologic, physical, and socioeconomic processes. Approaches for developing a coastal vulnerability assessment are reviewed, and an approach based on a calculation of the square root of the product mean of variable(s) of interest is the most commonly used assessment technique. Socioeconomic vulnerability is recognized as a critical component of vulnerability assessments that is often excluded because of inherent difficulties in data collection.

45 pgs / 1.3 mb


ERDC is a diverse research organization with approximately 2,000 employees operating more than $1 billion in world class facilities at seven laboratories. Its annual program exceeds $1 billion as it supports the Department of Defense and other agencies in military and civilian projects. Principal research areas include Soldier support, Engineered Resilient Systems, Environmental Quality and Installations, Geospatial Research and Engineering, Military Engineering, and Water Resources. “Discover ▪ Develop ▪ Deliver”

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