2A.5 Using species-level vulnerability assessments to inform conservation planning under climate change

Monday, 18 July 2011: 2:30 PM
Salon A (Asheville Renaissance)
Natalie S. Dubois, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington, DC; and A. DeWan, J. Boshoven, and D. C. Parsons

Vulnerability of a conservation target (e.g. species, habitat, ecosystem) to climate change is a product of exposure to climate change, the sensitivity of the target to these changes, and the capacity to adapt to these changes. Vulnerability assessments provide a scientific basis for developing climate change adaptation strategies by combining future climate scenarios with ecological information about climate sensitivity and adaptive capacity of conservation targets. Many of these tools are fairly new and have only recently begun to be implemented by state wildlife agencies and other wildlife management units as part of their conservation planning framework. We present a case study based on our work with a partnering state agency and evaluate the application of a particular vulnerability assessment tool, the NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index, to help inform management priorities and the design of appropriate climate change adaptation strategies for targeted species. We illustrate a process for incorporating vulnerability assessments with conceptual modeling as part of a comprehensive planning framework to identify adaptation strategies and management opportunities for species likely to be vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The results of our work demonstrate the value of incorporating expert opinion into adaptation planning and the importance of providing mechanisms by which to capture the various sources of uncertainty in these types of vulnerability assessments.
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