Measuring Capacity for Resilience among Coastal Counties of the U. S. Northern Gulf of Mexico Region


Many have voiced concern about the long-term survival of coastal communities in the face of increasingly intense storms and sea level rise. In this study we select indicators of key theoretical concepts from the social-ecological resilience literature, aggregate those indicators into a resilience-capacity index, and calculate an index score for each of the 52 coastal counties of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Building upon Cutter’s Social Vulnerability Index work [1], we use Factor Analysis to combine 43 variables measuring demographics, social capital, economic re- sources, local government actions, and environmental conditions within the counties. Then, we map the counties’ scores to show the spatial distribution of resilience capacities. The counties identified as having the highest resilience capaci- ties include the suburban areas near New Orleans, Louisiana and Tampa, Florida, and the growing beach-tourist com- munities of Alabama and central Florida. Also, we examine whether those counties more active in oil and gas develop- ment and production, part of the region’s “energy coast”, have greater capacity for resilience than other counties in the region. Correlation analyses between the resilience-capacity index scores and two measures of oil and gas industry ac- tivity (total employment and number of business establishments within five industry categories) yielded no statistically significant associations. By aggregating a range of important contextual variables into a single index, the study demonstrates a useful approach for the more systematic examination and comparison of exposure, vulnerability and capacity for resilience among coastal communities.

Share and Cite:

M. Reams, N. Lam and A. Baker, "Measuring Capacity for Resilience among Coastal Counties of the U. S. Northern Gulf of Mexico Region," American Journal of Climate Change, Vol. 1 No. 4, 2012, pp. 194-204. doi: 10.4236/ajcc.2012.14016.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] S. L. Cutter, B. J. Boruff and W. L. Shirley, “Social Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards,” Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 84, No. 2, 2003, pp. 242-261. doi:10.1111/1540-6237.8402002
[2] S. R. Carpenter, C. Folke, M. Scheffer and F. Westley, “Resilience: Accounting the Non-Computable,” Ecology and Society, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2009, pp. 13-20.
[3] B. Walker, L. Gunderson, A. Kinzig, C. Folke, S. Carpenter and L. Schultz, “A Handful of Heuristics and Some Propositions for Understanding Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems,” Ecology and Society, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2006, pp. 10-19.
[4] B. H. Walker, J. M. Anderies, A. P. Kinzing and P. Ryan, “Exploring Resilience in Socio-Ecological Systems Through Comparative Studies and Theory Development: Introduction to the Special Issue,” Ecology and Society, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2006, pp. 12-21.
[5] J. Barnett, S. Lambert and I. Fry, “The Hazards of Indicators: Insights from the Environmental Vulnerability Index,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 98, No. 1, 2008, pp. 102-119. doi:10.1080/00045600701734315
[6] N. S. N. Lam, M. Reams, A. Baker, L. De Frank and A. Martin, “On the Development of a Community Resilience Index,” Paper Presentation: Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Las Vegas, 26 March 2009.
[7] W. N. Adger, T. P. Hughes, C. Folke, S. R. Carpenter and J. Rockstrom, “Social-Ecological Resilience to Coastal Disasters,” Science, Vol. 309, No. 5737, 2005, p.1036. doi:10.1126/science.1112122
[8] J. G. Liu, T. Dietz, S. R. Carpenter, M. Alberti, C. Folke, E. Moran, A. N. Pell, P. Deadman, T. Kratz, J. Lubchenco, E. Ostrom, Z. Ouyang, W. Provencher, C. L. Redman, S. H. Schneider and W. W. Taylor, “Complexity of Coupled Human and Natural Systems,” Science, Vol. 317, No. 5844, 2007, pp. 1513-1516.
[9] C. S. Holling, “Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems,” Ecosystems, Vol. 4, No. 5, 2001, pp. 390-405. doi:10.1007/s10021-001-0101-5
[10] C. Folke, S. Carpenter, T. Elmqvist, L. Gunderson C. S. Holling and B. Walker, “Resilience and Sustainable Development: Building Adaptive Capacity in a World of Transformations,” Ambio, Vol. 31, No. 5, 2002, pp. 437440. doi:10.1639/0044-7447(2002)031[0437:RASDBA]2.0.CO;2
[11] A. K. Ahmed, “Concepts and Practices of Resilience: A Compilation from Various Secondary Sources,” Working Paper prepared for the Coastal Community Resilience (CCR) Program, U.S. Agency for International Development, 2006
[12] A. Baker, “Creating an Empirically Derived Community Resilience Index of the Gulf of Mexico Region,” M.S. Thesis, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 2009.
[13] W. N. Adger, “Vulnerability,” Global Environmental Change, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2006, pp. 268-281. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.02.006
[14] B. L. Turner, R. E. Kasperson, P. A. Matson, J. J. McCathy, R. W. Corell, L. Christensen, N. Eckley, J. X. Kasperson, A. Luers, M. L. Martello, C. Polsky, A. Pulsipher and A. Schiller, “Science and Technology for Sustainable Development Special Feature,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 100, No. 14, 2003, pp. 8074-8079. doi:10.1073/pnas.1231335100
[15] R. E. Kasperson, K. Dow, E. R. M. Archer, D. Caceres, T. E. Downing, T. Elmqvist, S. Eriksen, C. Folke, G. Han, K. Iyengar, C. Vogel, C. A. Wilson and G. Ziervogel. “Vulnerable Peoples and Places,” In: R. Hassin, R. Scholes and N. Ash, Eds., Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Island Press, Washington, 2005, pp. 145-162.
[16] M. Fordham, “Gender, Disaster and Development: The Necessity for Integration,” In: M. Pelling, Ed., Natural Disasters and Development in a Globalizing World, Routledge, London, 2003, pp. 57-74.
[17] A. A. Yusuf and H. Francisco, “Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping for Southeast Asia,” Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA), 2009.
[18] J. MacCarthy, O. Canziani, N. Leary, D. Dokken and K. White, “Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001.
[19] R. Nelson, P. Kokic, S. Crimp, H. Meinke and S. M. Howden, “The Vulnerability of Australian Rural Communities to Climate Variability and Change: Part I—Conceptualizing and Measuring Vulnerability,” Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2009, pp. 8-17. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2009.09.006
[20] R. Nelson, P. Kokic, S. Crimp, P. Martin, H. Meinke, S. M. Howden, P. de Voil and U. Nidumolu, “The Vulnerability of Australian Rural Communities to Climate Variability and Change: Part II—Integrating Impacts with Adaptive Capacity,” Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2009, pp. 18-37. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2009.09.007
[21] F. Ellis, “Rural Livelihoods and Diversity Indeveloping Countries,” Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000.
[22] S. L. Cutter and C. T. Emrich, “Moral Hazard, Social Catastrophe: The Changing Face of Vulnerability along the Hurricane Coasts,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 604, No.1, 2006, pp.102-112. doi:10.1177/0002716205285515
[23] S. Cutter and C. Finch, “Temporal and Spatial Changes in Social Vulnerability to Natural Hazards,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Vol. 105, No. 7, 2008, pp. 2301-2306. doi:10.1073/pnas.0710375105
[24] M. J. Norusis, “SPSS 12.0 Statistical Procedures Companion,” Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, 2003.
[25] Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), “Oil and Gas Statistics,” 2008.
[26] C. Folke, T. Hahn, P. Olsson and J. Norberg, “Adaptive Governance of Social-Ecological Systems,” Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2005, pp. 441-473. doi:10.1146/
[27] D. Austin, B. Carriker, T. McGuire, J. Pratt, T. Priest and A. G. Pulsipher, “History of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry in Southern Louisiana, Interim Report: Volume I,” Papers on the Evolving Offshore Industry, U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, New Orleans, 2004.
[28] R. Antonius, “Interpreting Quantitative Data with SPSS,” Sage Publications, London, 2003.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.