Integrating Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments into Adaptation Planning: A Case Study Using the NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index to Inform Conservation Planning for Species in Florida
From the Executive Summary:
Most natural resource planning, management and monitoring methodologies in place today are based on an assumption that species distributions and ecological processes will remain relatively stable over time. This fundamental assumption has been challenged, however, in the face of rapid climatic changes that are altering temperature, precipitation, sea level and ocean chemistry processes. Increasingly, wildlife and natural resource agencies are being challenged to address the impacts of climate change on the resources they strive to protect. In the context of wildlife conservation and management, the emerging field of "climate change adaptation" refers to the process of identifying strategies to prepare for or reduce the impacts of climate-related threats and stresses to biological systems.
Climate change adaptation requires an understanding of how climate change may impact a given biological system so that appropriate management strategies can be identified. Vulnerability to climate change refers to the degree to which an ecological community or individual species is likely to experience harm as a result of changes in climate (Schneider et al. 2007). Vulnerability is a function of exposure to climate change – the magnitude, intensity and duration of the climate changes experienced, the sensitivity of the species or community to these changes, and the capacity of the system to adapt (IPCC 2007, Williams et al. 2008). A vulnerability assessment can help to identify which species or systems are likely to be most strongly affected by projected changes in climate and provides a framework for understanding why particular species or systems are likely to be vulnerable (Glick et al. 2011). Such an assessment informs conservation planning by identifying climate-related threats and resulting stresses, which then become part of the decision-making process undertaken to identify and prioritize conservation strategies. When integrated into a conservation planning framework, adaptation does not replace current conservation practices and standards, but expands the applicability of these tools to better address the realities of a changing world.