Lead Researchers: Fabrice Renaud and Zita Sebesvari (United Nations University, Institute for Enviroment and Human Security)

Globally, several risk, resilience and/or vulnerability indices have been developed with different spatial resolutions (e.g. Birkmann et al. 2012; Bucx et al. 2010; Turner et al., 2003). However, no comprehensive “vulnerability profile assessment metrics” currently exist that are at high enough spatial resolution and are spatially explicit to capture the profound spatial variability existing in delta systems critically affecting the ability for successful local decision-making. To be of particular use to policy-makers, vulnerability metrics need to be developed based on indicators that are quantifiable at the sub-regional scale and transferable in different delta contexts.  Policy factors which are critical in shaping future development of various delta environments, but also differ among various governance regimes, are often ignored in assessing delta vulnerability and need to be incorporated in vulnerability metrics. Emphasis also needs to be placed on capturing in vulnerability analysis the interface between ecosystems and social systems through understanding and quantifying delta ecosystem services and how these can be altered by external (e.g., environmental hazards) and internal factors (e.g., induced by policy decisions).

To develop Delta Vulnerability Indices, the DELTAS project will adopt following research steps:

  • Advance our understanding of the spatial variability of vulnerability on the sub-delta level
  • Jointly with DELTAS-SRES, develop an unified framework for assessing resilience and vulnerability that will be  adapted locally
  • Define indicators that are quantifiable at the sub-delta scale and transferable in different delta contexts capable to capture the spatial variability of vulnerability
  • Apply a flexible indicator development process that combines scientific and local stakeholder-based approaches
  • Conduct an assessment in the three demonstration deltas at the sub-delta scale
  • Draw lessons for application in other delta environments


Birkmann, J., Welle, T., Krause, D., Wolfertz, J., Suarez, D.-C., & Setiadi, N. J. (2012) World Risk Index: Concepts and Results. In World Risk Report 2012. Berlin und Bonn: Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft (Alliance Development Works), The Nature Conservancy and United Nations University, p. 13-41. http://www.ehs.unu.edu/file/get/10487.pdf

Bucx, T., Marchand, M, Makaske, A., van de Guchte, C. (2010) Comparative assessment of the vulnerability and resilience of 10 deltas – synthesis report. Delta Alliance report number 1. Delta Alliance International, Delft-Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Turner, B. L., Kasperson, R. E., Matson, P. A., McCarthy, J. J., Corell, R. W., Christensen, L. N., Eckley, J., Kasperson, A. Luers, M. L. Martello, C. Polsky, A Pulsipher & Schiller, A. (2003) Science and technology for sustainable development special feature: A framework for vulnerability analysis in sustainability science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(14), 8074-8079.