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Facilitating Responses to Extreme Weather Events

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Department of Environmental Conservation
Project Description: 

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and extent of future flood events in New England. Such events pose a substantial threat to both human and natural systems. Not only do the direct effects of extreme flooding harm human and ecosystems, but human responses in the lead up to and the aftermath of these events (such as forest and debris removal, channel alteration and armoring, and gravel mining) also create substantial disturbances. The effect of these human responses may be to alleviate or to exacerbate ecological damage and consequently the impacts of future flood events. This research contributes to theoretical debates on adaptation to extreme events by explicitly accounting for the impacts of human-actions in response to flooding on riparian forest ecosystems needs. The research focuses on responses to extreme flood events in Vermont, primarily Hurricane Irene, but also prior flood disasters. As part of the analysis, we will compile and evaluate dispersed data on who took what flood response actions when within the riparian forest areas and neighboring riparian farmland. This research also investigates the motivations for human action. We will analyze existing policies, institutions and incentives influencing human responses to extreme flooding events and combine that information with information on impacts to provide practical information that will help inform decision-making and aid in the development of policies that meet human adaptation needs while simultaneously minimizing impacts on riparian forest ecosystems. The analysis will also provide information on how responses taken in the aftermath of one flooding event influence the impacts of future flooding event.