Combining landscape variables and species traits can improve the utility of climate change vulnerability assessments

Biological Conservation
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Abstract

Conservation organizations worldwide are investing in climate change vulnerability assessments. Most vulnerability assessment methods focus on either landscape features or species traits that can affect a species vulnerability to climate change. However, landscape features and species traits likely interact to affect vulnerability. We compare a landscape-based assessment, a trait-based assessment, and an assessment that combines landscape variables and species traits for 113 species of birds, herpetofauna, and mammals in the northeastern United States. Our aim is to better understand which species traits and landscape variables have the largest influence on assessment results and which types of vulnerability assessments are most useful for different objectives. Species traits were most important for determining which species will be most vulnerable to climate change. The sensitivity of species to dispersal barriers and the species average natal dispersal distance were the most important traits. Landscape features were most important for determining where species will be most vulnerable because species were most vulnerable in areas where multiple landscape features combined to increase vulnerability, regardless of species traits. The interaction between landscape variables and species traits was important when determining how to reduce climate change vulnerability. For example, an assessment that combines information on landscape connectivity, climate change velocity, and natal dispersal distance suggests that increasing landscape connectivity may not reduce the vulnerability of many species. Assessments that include landscape features and species traits will likely be most useful in guiding conservation under climate change.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Combining landscape variables and species traits can improve the utility of climate change vulnerability assessments
Series title Biological Conservation
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.07.030
Volume 202
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 9 p.
First page 30
Last page 38
Country United States