Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 719–729 | Cite as

A multi-scale assessment of human vulnerability to climate change in the Aral Sea basin

  • Elena Lioubimtseva
Thematic Issue


Vulnerability to climate change impacts is defined by three dimensions of human–environmental systems, such as exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. Climate change affects various aspects of human–environmental interactions, such as water stress, food security, human health, and well-being at multiple spatial and temporal scales. However, the existing protocols of vulnerability assessment fail to incorporate the multitude of scales associated with climate change processes. Changing trends in the Aral Sea basin are driven by multiple interconnected factors, such as changes in the global atmospheric circulation associated with the GHG-enhanced warming, regional hydrological and hydrometeorological changes caused by mountain-glacial melting and massive irrigation, land-use and land-cover changes, as well as hydrological, biogeochemical, and meso- and microclimatic changes in the remains of the Aral Sea and its exposed dry bottom. This review examines the role of scale in the assessment human vulnerability to climate change and offers a multi-scale approach to vulnerability assessment. In addition to the global climate change impacts, it takes into account regional and local land-use and land-cover changes, social, cultural, political, and institutional factors.


Temporal scale Spatial scale Vulnerability assessment Climate change scenarios Central Asia Kazakhstan Uzbekistan 



I am grateful to the four anonymous reviewers and the EES Editorial Team for very helpful comments and suggestions that have allowed me to improve this manuscript.


  1. Abdolvand B, Winter K, Mirsaeedi-Gloßner S (2014) The security dimension of water: insights from Central Asia. Environ Earth Sci (this issue)Google Scholar
  2. Akiner S (2000) Central Asia: a survey of the region and the five republics. UNHCR Centre for Documentation and Research, WRITENET Paper No. 22/1999, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, p 50Google Scholar
  3. Aladin N, Crétaux J-F, Plotnikov IS, Kouraev AV, Smurov AO, Cazenave A, Egorov AN, Papa F (2005) Modern hydro-biological state of the small Aral Sea. Environmetrics 16(18):375–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alcamo J, Henrichs T (2002) Critical regions: a model-based estimation of world water resources sensitive to global changes. Aquat Sci 64:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arnell NW (2004) Climate change and global water resources: SRES emissions and socio-economic scenarios. Glob Environ Change 14:31–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barlow M, Cullen H, Lyon B (2002) Drought in central and southwest Asia: La Niña, the warm pool, and Indian Ocean precipitation. J Clim 15:697–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chub VE (2000) Climate change and its impact on the natural resources potential of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Gimet Tashkent (in Russian)Google Scholar
  8. Confalonieri U, Menne B, Akhtar R, Ebi KL, Hauengue M, Kovats RS, Revich B, Woodward A (2007) Human health. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate Change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 391–431Google Scholar
  9. Crighton EJ, Elliott SJ, van der Meerc J, Small I, Upshur R (2003a) Impacts of an environmental disaster on psychosocial health and well-being in Karakalpakstan. Soc Sci Med 56(2003):551–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crighton EJ, Elliott SJ, Upshur R, van der Meerc J, Small I (2003b) The Aral Sea disaster and self-rated health. Health and Place 9:73–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elpiner LI (2003) A scenario of possible effect of changes in the hydrological conditions on the medical and environmental situation: on the problem of global hydroclimatic changes. Water Resour 30(4):434–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. FAO AQUASTAT (2013) AQUASTAT FAO's information system on water and agriculture. Accessed Dec 2013
  13. Fischer G, Shah M, Tubiello FN, van Velhuizen H (2005) Socioeconomic and climate change impacts on agriculture: an integrated assessment, 1990–2080. Philos Trans Royal Soc B 360:2067–2073CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fort M (2014) Natural hazards versus climate change and their potential impacts in the dry, northern Himalayas: focus on the Upper Kali Gandaki (Mustang District, Nepal). Environ Earth Sci (this issue). doi: 10.1007/s12665-014-3087-y
  15. Glantz MH (2005) Water, climate, and development issues in the Amu Darya basin. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 10(1):1381–2386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Groll M, Opp C, Kulmatov R, Ikramova M, Normatov I (2014) Water quality, potential conflicts and solutions—an upstream–downstream analysis of the transnational Zarafshan River (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan). Environ Earth Sci (this issue). doi: 10.1007/s12665-013-2988-5
  17. IPCC (2001) Climate change: the scientific basis. In: Houghton JT, Ding Y, Griggs M (eds) Contribution of working group I to the third assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK Google Scholar
  18. IPCC WGI (2007) Climate Change 2007: the physical science basis. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  19. IPCC WGII (2007) Climate Change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  20. Jensen S, Mazhitova Z, Zetterstr R (1997) Environmental pollution and child health in the Aral Sea region in Kazakhstan. Sci Total Environ 206(1997):187–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kariyeva J, van Leewuven W (2011) Environmental drivers of NDVI-based vegetation phenology in Central Asia. Remote Sens 3(2):203–246. doi: 10.3390/rs3020203 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kayumov AK, Mahmadaliev BU (2002) Climate change and its impacts on climate change. Avesto, Dushanbe (in Russian)Google Scholar
  23. Kirilenko A, Dronin N (2011) Climate change and adaptations of agriculture in the countries of the Former Soviet Union. In: Yadav SS, Redden B, Hatfield JL et al (eds) Crop adaptation to changing climates. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ, pp 84–106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jönsson P, Eklundh L (2004) TIMESAT—a program for analyzing time-series of satellite sensor data. Comput Geosci 30(8):833–845CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lioubimtseva E (2002) Arid environments. In: Shahgedanova M (ed) Physical geography of northern Eurasia. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp 267–283Google Scholar
  26. Lioubimtseva E (2007) Possible changes in the carbon budget of arid and semi-arid Central Asia inferred from land-use/landcover analyses during 1981–2001. In: Lal R, Suleimenov M, Stewart BA, Hansen DO, Doraiswami P (eds) Climate change and terrestrial carbon sequestration in Central Asia. Taylor & Francis, London, pp 441–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lioubimtseva E (2014) Impact of climate change on the Aral Sea and its Basin. In: The Aral Sea: the devastation and partial Rehabilitation of a Great Lake: anatomy of an environmental disaster. In: Micklin P, Aladin N, Plotnokov I (eds) Chapter 17, (Springer Earth System Sciences), Springer, PraxisGoogle Scholar
  28. Lioubimtseva E, Adams JM (2004) Possible implications of increased carbon dioxide levels and climate change for desert ecosystems. Environ Manag 33(S1):S388–S404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lioubimtseva E, Henebry GM (2009) Climate and environmental change in arid Central Asia: impacts, vulnerability, and adaptations. J Arid Environ 73:963–977CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lioubimtseva E, Cole R, Adams JM, Kapustin G (2005) Impacts of climate and land-cover changes in arid lands of Central Asia. J Arid Environ 62(2):285–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lioubimtseva E, Kariyeva J, Henebry GM (2013) Climate change in Turkmenistan. In: Zonn IS, Kostyanov AG (eds) The Turkmen Lake Altyn Asyr and water resources in Turkmenistan, handbook on environmental chemistry. Springer, Heidelberg. doi: 10.1007/698-2012-175 Google Scholar
  32. Malsy M, Aus der Beek T, Flörke M (2014) Uncertainties in hydrological modelling and its consequences for sustainable water management in Central Asia. Environ Earth Sci (this issue). doi: 10.1007/s12665-014-3107-y
  33. Micklin P (1988) Desiccation of the Aral Sea: a water management disaster in the Soviet Union. Science 241:1170–1176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Micklin P (2007) The Aral Sea disaster. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci 35:47–72. doi: 10.1146/ CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Micklin P (2010) The past, present, and future Aral Sea. Lakes Reserv Res Manag 15:193–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nakicenovic N, Alcamo J, Davis G, de Vries B, Fenhann J, Gaffin S, Gregory K, Grübler A, Jung TY, Kram T, La Rovere EL, Michaelis L, Mori S, Morita T, Pepper W, Pitcher H, Price L, Riahi K, Roehrl A, Rogner H–H, Sankovski A, Schlesinger M, Shukla P, Smith S, Swart R, van Rooijen S, Victor N, Dadi Z (2000) IPCC special report on emissions scenarios, IPCC special reports. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  37. Newingham BA, Vanier CH, Charlet TN, Ogle K, Smith SD, Nowak RS (2013) No cumulative effect of 10 years of elevated [CO2] on perennial plant biomass components in the Mojave Desert. Glob Change Biol 19(7):2168–2181. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12177 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. O’Hara S, Wiggs GFS, Mamedov B, Davidson G, Hubbard RB (2000) Exposure to airborne dust contaminated with pesticide in the Aral Sea region. Lancet Res Lett 355:627–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Polsky C, Neff R, Yarnal B (2007) Building comparable global change assessments: the vulnerability scoping diagram. Glob Environ Change 17(3–4):472–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rakhmatullaev S, Huneau F, Kazbekov J, Le Coustumer P, Jumanov J, El Oifi B, Motelica-Heino M, Hrkal Z (2010) Groundwater resources use and management in the Amu Darya River Basin (Central Asia). Environ Earth Sci 59(6):1183–1193. doi: 10.1007/s12665-009-0107-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sayko TS (1998) Geographical and socio-economic dimensions of the Aral Sea crisis and their impact on the potential for community action. J Arid Environ 39:225–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schröter D, Polsky C, Patt AG (2005) Assessing vulnerability to the effects of global climate change: an eight step approach. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 10:573–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shibuo Y, Jarsjo J, Destouni G (2007) Hydrological responses to climate change and irrigation in the Aral Sea drainage basin. Geophys Res Lett 34:L21406. doi: 10.1029/2007GL031465 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shiklomanov IA, Rodda JC (2001) World water resources at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  45. Small EE, Sloan LC, Hostetler S, Giorgi F (1999) Simulating the water balance of the Aral Sea with a coupled regional climate-lake model. J Geophys Res 104(D6):6583–6602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Small EE, Giorgi F, Sloan LC, Hostetler S (2000) The effects of desiccation and climatic change on the hydrology of the Aral Sea. J Clim 14:300–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smit B, Skinner MW (2002) Adaptation options to climate change: a typology. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 7:85–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith SD, Huxman TF, Zitzer SF, Charlet TN, Housman DC, Coleman JS, Fenstermaker LK, Seemann JR, Nowak RS (2000) Elevated CO2 increases productivity and invasive species success in an arid ecosystem. Nature 408:79–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Syed FS, Giorgi F, Pal JS, King MP (2006) Effect of remote forcings on the winter precipitation of Central Southwest Asia, Part 1: observations. Theoret Appl Climatol 86(1–4):147–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wiggs GFS, O’Hara SL, Wegerdt J, Van der Meer J, Small I, Hubbard R (2003) The dynamics and characteristics of aeolian dust in dryland Central Asia: possible impacts on human exposure and respiratory health in the Aral Sea basin. Geogr J 169(2):142–157 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wigley TML (2008) MAGICC/SCENGEN 5.3: USER MANUAL (version 2) NCAR, Boulder, CO, September 2008,

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Studies Program, Geography and Planning DepartmentGrand Valley State UniversityAllendaleUSA

Personalised recommendations