Climate change vulnerability assessment of species

Wendy Foden, Bruce Young, Resit Akçakaya, Raquel Garcia, Ary Hoffman, Bruce Stein, Chris Thomas, Christopher John Wheatley, David Bickford, Jamie Carr, David Hole, Tara Martin, Michela Pacifici, James W. Pearce-Higgins, Philip John Platts, Piero Visconti, James Watson, Brian Huntley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Assessing species’ vulnerability to climate change is a prerequisite for developing effective strategies to conserve them. The last three decades have seen exponential growth in the number of studies evaluating how, how much, why, when, and where species will be impacted by climate change. We provide an overview of the rapidly developing field of climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA) and describe the key concepts, terms, important steps and considerations. We stress the importance of identifying the full range of pressures, impacts and their associated mechanisms that species face and using this as a basis for selecting the appropriate assessment approaches for quantifying vulnerability. We outline four CCVA assessment approaches, namely trait-based, correlative, mechanistic and combined approaches and discuss their use. Since any assessment can deliver unreliable or even misleading results when incorrect data and parameters are applied, we discuss finding, selecting, and applying input data and provide examples of open-access resources. Because rare, small-range, and declining-range species are often of particular concern and pose significant challenges for CCVA, we describe alternative ways to assess them. We also describe how CCVAs can be used to inform IUCN Red List assessments of extinction risk. Finally, we suggest future directions in this field and propose areas where research efforts may be particularly valuable.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere551
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalWIREs Climate Change
Issue number1
Early online date11 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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  • IUCN Red List
  • climate change vulnerability
  • conservation planning
  • species conservation
  • vulnerability assessment

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