Vulnerabilities of national parks in the American Midwest to climate and land use changes

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5057
Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service
By: , and 



Many national parks in the American Midwest are surrounded by agricultural or urban areas or are in highly fragmented or rapidly changing landscapes. An environmental stressor is a physical, chemical, or biological condition that affects the functioning or productivity of species or ecosystems. Climate change is just one of many stressors on park natural resources; others include urbanization, land use change, air and water pollution, and so on. Understanding and comparing the relative vulnerability of a suite of parks to projected climate and land use changes is important for region-wide planning. A vulnerability assessment of 60 units in the 13-state U.S. National Park Service Midwestern administrative region to climate and land use change used existing data from multiple sources. Assessment included three components: individual park exposure (5 metrics), sensitivity (5 metrics), and constraints to adaptive capacity (8 metrics) under 2 future climate scenarios. The three components were combined into an overall vulnerability score. Metrics were measures of existing or projected conditions within park boundaries, within 10-kilometer buffers surrounding parks, and within ecoregions that contain or intersect them. Data were normalized within the range of values for all assessed parks, resulting in high, medium, and low relative rankings for exposure, sensitivity, constraints to adaptive capacity, and overall vulnerability. Results are consistent with assessments regarding patterns and rates of climate change nationwide but provide greater detail and relative risk for Midwestern parks. Park overall relative vulnerability did not differ between climate scenarios. Rankings for exposure, sensitivity, and constraints to adaptive capacity varied geographically and indicate regional conservation planning opportunities. The most important stressors for the most vulnerable Midwestern parks are those related to sensitivity (intrinsic characteristics of the park) and constraints on adaptive capacity (characteristics of the surrounding landscape) rather than exposure to external forces, including climate change. Output will allow individual park managers to understand which metrics weigh most heavily in the overall vulnerability of their park and can be used for region-wide responses and resource allocation for adaptation efforts.

Suggested Citation

Stroh, E.D., Struckhoff, M., Shaver, D., and Karstensen, K., 2016, Vulnerabilities of national parks in the American Midwest to climate and land use changes: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5057, 20 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Purpose and Scope
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Table containing raw and normalized scores used to calculate vulnerability of 60 American Midwestern national parks to projected climate and land use changes for 2080–2099
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Vulnerabilities of national parks in the American Midwest to climate and land use changes
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2016-5057
DOI 10.3133/sir20165057
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center
Description Report: iv, 20 p.; Appendix
First page 1
Last page 20
Country United States
State Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details