Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 187–197 | Cite as

Our disappearing past: a GIS analysis of the vulnerability of coastal archaeological resources in California’s Santa Barbara Channel region

  • Leslie A. ReederEmail author
  • Torben C. Rick
  • Jon M. Erlandson


Coastal archaeological resources around the world often coincide with dense contemporary human populations and a rapidly changing physical environment. Projected sea level rise and urban expansion during the 21st century threaten to destroy much of our global coastal archaeological heritage. In this study, we adapt an environmental vulnerability analysis to quantify the threats of modern development and sea level rise on archaeological sites in California’s Santa Barbara Channel region. Using spatial and statistical techniques, we create a Cultural Resource Vulnerability Index that combines environmental factors, current and projected urban footprints, and archaeological site positioning. We illustrate the importance of this method for targeting threatened archaeological sites for mitigation and salvage research. In the process, we highlight the significance of coastal archaeological sites for helping better understand contemporary environmental and cultural issues, underscoring the need to preserve or salvage these sites for their significant research value.


Sea level rise Coastal erosion Urban development Cultural resource vulnerability GIS 



We thank Amy Gusick and the staff at the Central Coast Information Center, University of California, Santa Barbara for the archaeological GIS data from both the Santa Barbara mainland and the Northern Channel Islands. We also thank Stuart Murchison, of the Department of Geography and Geospatial Science at the University of Texas, Dallas, for helpful suggestions on an early version of this manuscript. Finally, we thank anonymous reviewers and the editors of the Journal of Coastal Conservation for help in the revision and production of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie A. Reeder
    • 1
    Email author
  • Torben C. Rick
    • 2
  • Jon M. Erlandson
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA
  2. 2.Archaeobiology Program, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Museum of Natural and Cultural History and Department of AnthropologyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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