Vulnerability 2020-02-07T20:59:19+00:00


Theme Leads: Brian Huntley and Resit Akçakaya

The overall aim of this theme is to assess the vulnerability of species to climate change.  For the purposes of the CCSG, we define vulnerability as the predisposition of a species to be adversely affected by expected future changes in climate.

The activities we have planned for the next few years are organized in three related directions: species assessments; vulnerability science; and guidance and tools.

Species Assessments

The goal of this group of activities is to support SSC Specialist Groups in incorporating climate change into their species assessments.  This includes IUCN Red List assessments, as well as more general vulnerability assessments. Currently there are 3 activities in this group:

1. Red List and Climate Change

Leads: Helen Regan and David Keith

Goal: Facilitate the incorporation of climate change projections and other aspects of climate change science into the IUCN Red List assessments.

Expected products:

  • Regular updates to the Red List Guidelines, in collaboration with the Red List Standards and Petitions Sub-committee (of which Helen, David and Resit are members).
  • Developing one or a few case studies demonstrating the 4-step protocol for assessing extinction risks under climate change, detailed in section 12 of the Red List Guidelines.
  • Collaborating with the “Modeling Support” and “Colombian Amphibians” activities (see below) to provide expertise on demographic components of Red List assessments.

Prior work:

  • Three studies tested the ability of the IUCN Red List to identify species vulnerable to extinction due to climate change (Pearson et al. 2014; Keith et al. 2014; Stanton et al. 2015). Collectively, these studies found that the IUCN Red List criteria can identify species vulnerable to extinction because of climate change, and can do this with sufficient warning time in most cases. However they also showed that warning times may be short in data-poor situations, and if conservation action is started only when a species is listed at the highest IUCN threat category (Critically Endangered). Therefore, there is a need for further development of the guidance for using the IUCN Red List system, especially in data-poor situations.
  • A commentary in Nature Climate Change (Akçakaya et al. 2014) summarized the findings of the studies discussed above, and proposed future directions for research and development for preventing species extinctions resulting from climate change.

2. Colombian Amphibians

Leads: Nicolette Roach and Thomas Lacher

Goal: Incorporating climate change models and species vulnerability into Red List assessments of amphibians in Colombia.

Expected product: Red List assessments of Colombian Amphibians that incorporate climate change.

3. Guidelines for Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (CCVA) of species

Leads: Wendy Foden and Bruce Young

Goal: Maintaining and updating the CCVA guidelines.

Expected products:

  • Review of post 2015 literature on CCVA, including on validation of CCVAs using observed CC impacts;
  • Updates to the CCVA decision-making processes guided by the results of this review;
  • Updated CCVA guidelines.

Prior work:

  • Published review of CCVA of species for WIREs Climate Change (Foden et al. 2018)
  • A trait-based method for assessing climate change vulnerability, applied to all birds, amphibians and corals (Foden et al. 2013).
  • IUCN SSC Guidelines for assessing species’ vulnerability to climate change.
  • A review of correlative, mechanistic and trait-based methods for assessing species vulnerability to climate change (Pacifici et al. 2015).

Vulnerability Science

The goal of this group of activities is to support the development of novel approaches for advancing the science of assessing risks to biodiversity from climate change. Currently, two activities are planned.

1. Future Human Responses

Lead: Stephen Willis

Goal: To assess the impacts of future climate change on global terrestrial biodiversity (principally birds and mammals), by incorporating species traits and human pressures into dynamic species distribution models.

Expected product: Publication summarising climate impacts on these two groups globally, and an evaluation of potential pinch-points and regions of potential future rapid species loss without intervention.

2. Contribution to integrative case study

Leads: (to be confirmed)

Goal: To contribute to one or more case studies of species that each integrates impacts, vulnerability and adaptation themes of the CCSG. Each case study will focus on a single species and use a variety of detailed models, simulating a set of retrospective and prospective scenarios. Two retrospective scenarios (with and without past climate change) will explore quantitative methods for attribution of biotic change to climate change. Two or more prospective scenarios (with and without adaptation measures modeled for the future) will explore approaches to quantify expected conservation impact.

Expected product: Publication demonstrating the use of species models for quantifying impacts of past climate change and effectiveness of future adaptation measures, integrating methods and results from the impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation themes of the CCSG.

3. Adaptive capacity

Leads: Lindsey Thurman (U.S. Geological Survey), Erik Beever (U.S. Geological Survey), Bruce Stein, and Wendy Foden

Goal: To produce a decision framework that natural-resource managers and other conservation practitioners can use to assess and facilitate (when possible) species’ innate ability to cope with climate change. This tool will ideally be used in conjunction with existing vulnerability assessment frameworks to help improve effectiveness of conservation planning and resource management in a changing climate.

Expected products:

  • Paper/report reviewing the attribute-based framework focusing on an attribute-based approach to assessing intrinsic adaptive capacity of species.
  • Paper/report directed primarily to a practitioner audience, focusing on overcoming the knowledge gaps & socio-ecological constraints to facilitate species adaptive capacity.
  • A decision-support tool that synthesizes the findings from both working groups and can be used in conjunction with existing climate change vulnerability guidance documents.

Guidance and Tools

The goal of this group of activities is to provide evolving guidance and tools for assessing risks to biodiversity from climate change based on the latest scientific advances. These are directed both to the SSC Specialist Groups and the wider conservation community.

1. Modelling Support

Lead: Richard Pearson

The CCSG modelling support activity aims to provide resources, review and advice to aid modelling undertaken by the SSC. For goals and participants of this activity, and a list of resources for SSC members, please see the dedicated page of this activity here.

2. Climate science

Lead: Andrew Hartley

Goal: To provide technical support for all CCSG activities in terms of climate science, allowing close collaboration of CCSG members with climate scientists as the CCSG develops guidance for other specialist groups of the IUCN on various topics related to climate change and species conservation.

Expected products:  Guidelines, tools and other resources for a range of climatology topics, such as using outputs of global and/or regional climate models, selecting climate change scenarios (RCPs), and choosing between alternative methods for regional downscaling of climate projections, all in the context of species assessment and conservation. Specific issues include the relative reliability of different earth system models in different regions, particularly for variables of biological importance that are less frequently used in SDMs (such as maximum and average length of wet and dry spells).

3. Land use and climate change

Leads: Adam Smith and Maria Santos

Goal:  Changes in land use and land cover are the major threat to currently vulnerable species, and they are expected to continue to be a threat.  For many organisms, responses to climate change will be mediated by land use and land cover.  In addition, human responses to climate change will involve changes in land-use patterns, which will in many cases exacerbate climate change impacts. The goal of this activity is to provide technical support in terms of incorporating the combined effects of land use change and climate change into species assessments.

Expected products:  A review article and guidelines on incorporating land use change into assessments of climate vulnerability.