• adaptive capacity;
  • climate change;
  • complementarity;
  • conservation planning;
  • exposure;
  • niche modelling;
  • sensitivity;
  • triage;
  • Zonation


Climate change may shrink and/or shift plant species ranges thereby increasing their vulnerability and requiring targeted conservation to facilitate adaptation. We quantified the vulnerability to climate change of plant species based on exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity and assessed the effects of including these components in complementarity-based spatial conservation prioritisation. We modelled the vulnerability of 584 native plant species under three climate change scenarios in an 11.9 million hectare fragmented agricultural region in southern Australia. We represented exposure as species' geographical range under each climate change scenario as quantified using species distribution models. We calculated sensitivity as a function of the impact of climate change on species' geographical ranges. Using a dispersal kernel, we quantified adaptive capacity as species' ability to migrate to new geographical ranges under each climate change scenario. Using Zonation, we assessed the impact of individual components of vulnerability (exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity) on spatial conservation priorities and levels of species representation in priority areas under each climate change scenario. The full vulnerability framework proved an effective basis for identifying spatial conservation priorities under climate change. Including different dimensions of vulnerability had significant implications for spatial conservation priorities. Incorporating adaptive capacity increased the level of representation of most species. However, prioritising sensitive species reduced the representation of other species. We conclude that whilst taking an integrated approach to mitigating species vulnerability to climate change can ensure sensitive species are well-represented in a conservation network, this can come at the cost of reduced representation of other species. Conservation planning decisions aimed at reducing species vulnerability to climate change need to be made in full cognisance of the sensitivity of spatial conservation priorities to individual components of vulnerability, and the trade-offs associated with focussing on sensitive species.