A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of California's At-Risk Birds

Thomas Gardali, Nathaniel E. Seavy, Ryan T. DiGaudio, Lyann A. Comrack
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 7/11/2023

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Conservationists must develop new strategies and adapt existing tools to address the consequences of anthropogenic climate change. To support statewide climate change adaptation, we developed a framework for assessing climate change vulnerability of California's at-risk birds and integrating it into the existing California Bird Species of Special Concern list.

We defined climate vulnerability as the amount of evidence that climate change will negatively impact a population. We quantified climate vulnerability by scoring sensitivity (intrinsic characteristics of an organism that make it vulnerable) and exposure (the magnitude of climate change expected) for each taxon. Using the combined sensitivity and exposure scores as an index, we ranked 358 avian taxa, and classified 128 as vulnerable to climate change.

Birds associated with wetlands had the largest representation on the list relative to other habitat groups. Of the 29 state or federally listed taxa, 21 were also classified as climate vulnerable, further raising their conservation concern. Integrating climate vulnerability and California's Bird Species of Special Concern list resulted in the addition of five taxa and an increase in priority rank for ten.

Our process illustrates a simple, immediate action that can be taken to inform climate change adaptation strategies for wildlife.


Gardali, T., Seavy, N.E., DiGaudio, R.T., Comrack, L.A. (2012). A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of California’s At-Risk Birds. PLoS ONE, 7(3): e29507. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029507.

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