Document Type


Date of Original Version



Marine Affairs


Climate change is increasing the speed at which tangible coastal cultural heritage is changing in character or being lost through weathering, erosion, and inundation. Damages to coastal archeological sites, loss of access to historical sites, and the alteration of cultural landscapes will force changes in the way researchers can study sites, tourists can enjoy places, and descendant communities who have lived in particular areas for time immemorial, and local community members can utilize and relate to landscapes. In the USA, the National Park Service is a primary coastal cultural resource management organization. The National Park Service has been working on climate change adaptation for cultural resources for over a decade; however, there are few examples of parks in which long range climate change adaptation plans for cultural resources have been implemented. Building from 20 semi-structured interviews with cultural resource managers in three parks, we found that institutional structures within the National Park Service, as well as historical conceptual framings specific to the research, recreational, and interpretive values of cultural resources act as barriers to managers’ ability to design and implement climate change adaptation plans. Institutional barriers managers discussed include the dependence of climate change adaptation decisions partnership projects and the leveraging of budgetary and staff resources within NPS that may affect climate change adaptation capacity. We found that park managers often saw impacts in parks that may be associated with climate change, but found it difficult to separate normal maintenance from climate change affected deterioration, which may lead to status quo management actions rather than revised planning for a changing future regime. Conceptual barriers managers discussed revealed a conflict between preservation needs of research versus interpretive uses and while NPS guidance recommends prioritization of cultural resources for preservation at the park level, regional managers were more focused on this topic than park managers. As NPS moves forward with climate change adaptation planning, opportunities to develop and improve cultural resource preservation with new technologies, improved prioritization schemes, and include public input in resource preservation may help coastal managers overcome these barriers.