Using the Climate Change Vulnerability Index to Inform Adaptation Planning: Lessons, Innovations, and Next Steps
New tools and approaches are becoming available for wildlife conservation managers to help support climate adaptation activities, but few studies have documented how practitioners have applied these tools and perceive their utility. We surveyed the literature and users of the NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI), a tool that is widely used in North America to assess species' vulnerability to climate change, to characterize 1) how the tool has been used; 2) the objectives addressed by projects using the tool; 3) novel approaches that might be useful to other users; 4) how the results contributed to climate change adaptation planning; and 5) needed improvements recognized by users of the tool. Responses from 25 CCVI users, representing state agencies and natural heritage programs, conservation organizations, and universities, combined with published reports from 20 CCVI assessments, indicated that the CCVI has been applied to large numbers of species from diverse taxonomic groups. Results from these assessments have been used to communicate about climate change vulnerability, select species to be prioritized for management, inform management decisions, identify monitoring needs, and inform land-acquisition decisions. Users of the CCVI have developed novel ways to address uncertainty in climate and species natural-history data, involve stakeholders, evaluate migratory species, address specific management questions, and combine outputs with the results of parallel spatial analyses. To address user needs, future iterations of the tool should address climate exposure in the full life cycle of migratory species; better examine species dependent on specific vegetation microhabitats; and improve treatment of the effects of climate on diseases, parasites, and natural enemies.