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WIREs Clim Change
Impact Factor: 5.124

Climate change vulnerability assessment of species

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Assessing species' vulnerability to climate change is a prerequisite for developing effective strategies to conserve them. The last three decades have seen exponential growth in the number of studies evaluating how, how much, why, when, and where species will be impacted by climate change. We provide an overview of the rapidly developing field of climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA) and describe key concepts, terms, steps and considerations. We stress the importance of identifying the full range of pressures, impacts and their associated mechanisms that species face and using this as a basis for selecting the appropriate assessment approaches for quantifying vulnerability. We outline four CCVA assessment approaches, namely trait‐based, correlative, mechanistic and combined approaches and discuss their use. Since any assessment can deliver unreliable or even misleading results when incorrect data and parameters are applied, we discuss finding, selecting, and applying input data and provide examples of open‐access resources. Because rare, small‐range, and declining‐range species are often of particular conservation concern while also posing significant challenges for CCVA, we describe alternative ways to assess them. We also describe how CCVAs can be used to inform IUCN Red List assessments of extinction risk. Finally, we suggest future directions in this field and propose areas where research efforts may be particularly valuable.

This article is categorized under:

  • Climate, Ecology, and Conservation > Extinction Risk
Steps for developing climate change adaptation strategies. (Reprinted with permission from Glick et al. (). Copyright 2011 National Wildlife Federation)
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The approaches used to carry out each of the three assessment types and the metrics or types of information of climate change vulnerability that they may produce
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Mechanisms describe the pathways through which climate change pressures may exert impacts on species. These impacts may have positive and/or negative impacts on the species and are mitigated or exacerbated by species' individual sensitivities and adaptive capacities
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Potential climate change impacts on species include the species‐level population and range changes that underpin extinction risk. These changes are driven by changes at individual and subpopulation levels
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Climate change‐related pressures on species, showing those originating from abiotic, biotic and human response causes
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Climate, Ecology, and Conservation > Extinction Risk

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