Landscape-scale indicators of biodiversity's vulnerability to climate change

Authors


  • Corresponding Editor: M. Anand.

Abstract

Climate change will increase the vulnerability of species across the globe to population loss and extinction. In order to develop conservation strategies to facilitate adaptation to this change, managers must understand the vulnerability of the habitats and species they are trying to manage. For most biodiversity managers, conducting vulnerability assessments for all of the species they manage would be prohibitively costly, time consuming, and potentially misleading since some data required does not yet exist. We present a rapid and cost-effective method to estimate the vulnerability of biodiversity to climate change impacts across broad areas using landscape-scale indicators. While this method does not replace species-specific vulnerability assessments, it allows biodiversity managers to focus analysis on the species likely to be most vulnerable and identify the categories of conservation strategies for implementation to reduce biodiversity's vulnerability to climate change. We applied this method to California, USA to map the portions of the state where biodiversity managers should focus on minimizing current threats to biodiversity (9%), reducing constraints to adaptation (28%), reducing exposure to climatic changes (24%), and implementing all three (9%). In 18% of the state, estimated vulnerability is low so continuing current strategies and monitoring for changes is likely sufficient, while in 12% of the state, vulnerability is so high that biodiversity managers may have to reassess current conservation goals. In combination with species-specific vulnerability assessments or alone, mapping vulnerability based on landscape-scale indicators will allow managers to take an essential step toward implementing conservation strategies to help imperiled species adapt to climate change.

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