Understanding how our changing climate will affect our wildlife species and the habitats on which they depend is key to designing and carrying out effective adaptation strategies to counter the impacts of climate change.
Plant and animal species vary widely in how they are likely to respond to change in temperature, precipitation, and other factors brought about by global warming. "Vulnerability to climate change" refers to the likelihood that these climate-induced shifts will have an adverse impact on a given species, habitat, or ecosystem.
The National Wildlife Federation led an effort to provide conservationists and resource managers with guidance and tools to help them conduct vulnerability assessments as part of broader climate change adaptation planning efforts.
This working group, which won the Department of Interior's Partners in Conservation Award for their collaboration, consisted of leading experts from federal and state agencies, universities, and non-profit conservation groups.
The group's efforts resulted in a user's guide to vulnerability assessment and training curriculum. Titled Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, this guide focuses on the key components of vulnerability—sensitivity and exposure—and reviews best practices for conducting assessments focusing on species, habitats, or ecosystems. (Download the executive summary.)
Vulnerability assessments are a key step in adaptation planning by enabling managers to:
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