Culture and Climate Change Collide

— Written By and last updated by Kristen Rice-Gira
Cape Lookout heritage site

Photo of Cape Lookout by Erin Seekamp.

As our climate changes, how do we adapt our cultural resources?

Researchers at NC State University have been funded by the US DOI Southeast Climate Science Center to help the National Park Service plan for adapting cultural resources under changing climate conditions. Dr. Sandra Fatorić, Post-Doctoral Research Scholar, and Dr. Erin Seekamp, Associate Professor and Tourism Extension Specialist, focused their efforts on the Cape Lookout National Seashore, located on a 56-mile long chain of barrier islands on the North Carolina coast, as their study site.

record of water lines after hurricanes

Many hurricanes have left their marks. Photo by Sandra Fatorić.

Their report provides an overview of the measurement framework they developed through multiple workshops and meetings with leaders in the National Park Service and the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, as well as other stakeholders and experts.

The framework is intended to help managers deal with one aspect of historic preservation planning efforts: evaluating and assessing the relative historical significance and use potential of historic buildings.

Ongoing collaboration with USGS researchers, Dr. Mitch Eaton (Southeast Climate Science Center) and Dr. Max Post van der Burg (Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center) will result in a decision support tool that combines the data from this framework with (1) data on the vulnerability of the buildings to future flooding from storm surge and sea level rise and (2) cost estimates for different types of adaptation strategies (such as elevating or moving buildings).

Ultimately, the combined efforts can inform climate change planning efforts that seek to maximize cultural heritage preservation.

Read the full report: Assessing Historical Significance and Use Potential of Buildings within Historic Districts: An Overview of a Measurement Framework Developed for Climate Adaptation Planning