Accounting for adaptive capacity and uncertainty in assessments of species’ climate-change vulnerability

Conservation Biology
By: , and 



Climate change vulnerability assessments (CCVAs) are valuable tools for assessing species’ vulnerability to climatic changes, yet failure to include measures of adaptive capacity and to account for sources of uncertainty may limit their effectiveness. Here, we provide a more comprehensive CCVA approach that incorporates all three elements used for assessing species’ climate change vulnerability: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. We illustrate our approach using case studies of two threatened salmonids with different life histories – anadromous steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and non-anadromous bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) – within the Columbia River Basin, USA. We identified general patterns of high vulnerability in low-elevation and southernmost habitats for both species. However, vulnerability rankings varied widely depending on the factors (climate, habitat, demographic, and genetic) included in the CCVA and often differed for the two species at locations where they were sympatric. Our findings illustrate that CCVA results are highly sensitive to data inputs and that spatial differences can complicate multi-species conservation. Our results highlight how CCVAs should be considered within a broader conceptual and computational framework for refining hypotheses, guiding research, and comparing plausible scenarios of species’ vulnerability for ongoing and projected climate change.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Accounting for adaptive capacity and uncertainty in assessments of species’ climate-change vulnerability
Series title Conservation Biology
DOI 10.1111/cobi.12764
Volume 31
Issue 1
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Society for Conservation Biology
Publisher location Malden, MA
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 14 p.
First page 136
Last page 149
Country United States
Other Geospatial Columbia River Basin
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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