Understanding Climate Change Vulnerability in the Pacific Northwest: A Comparison of Three Approaches

Joshua Lawler, Elizabeth Gray, J Michael Scott, Rocky Beach, Leona Svancara, Victoria Stevens
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 11/07/2023

Posted by

CAKE Team

Published

Abstract

Climate change is already affecting species in many ways. Because individual species respond to climate change differently, some will be adversely affected by climate change whereas others may benefit. Successfully managing species in a changing climate will require an understanding of which species will be most and least impacted by climate change. Although several approaches have been proposed for assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change, it is unclear whether these approaches are likely to produce similar results.

In this study, we compared the relative vulnerabilities to climate change of 76 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and trees based on three different approaches to assessing vulnerability. We compared (1) projected shifts in species distributions to (2) an assessment based on expert opinion and projected changes in climate to (3) an approach based on the current and future climatic conditions within species’ current ranges.

We found that the three approaches provided substantially different rankings of the species. Some species were determined to be highly vulnerable by one approach but only moderately vulnerable by the other two approaches. Only one species, the caribou, was consistently ranked in the top ten most vulnerable species by all three approaches. This is not entirely surprising given that the three measures assess different aspects of vulnerability and are based on different types of information.

Nonetheless, these results are important because they indicate that more than one approach may be needed to adequately assess vulnerability and that basing management decisions on one approach alone may lead scientists and managers to underestimate vulnerability.  

Citation

Joshua Lawler, Elizabeth Gray, J Michael Scott, Rocky Beach, Leona Svancara, Victoria Stevens. (2014). Understanding Climate Change Vulnerability in the Pacific Northwest: A Comparison of Three Approaches. Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center. 

Affiliated Organizations

Established in 2010, the Northwest CASC (NW CASC) provides regionally-relevant scientific information, tools, and techniques to resource managers and communities in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Its purpose is to provide scientific information, tools, and techniques that managers and other parties interested in land, water, wildlife and cultural resources can use to anticipate, monitor, and adapt to climate change.

The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.

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