Abstract

The effects of climate change on biodiversity are increasingly well documented, and many methods have been developed to assess species' vulnerability to climatic changes, both ongoing and projected in the coming decades. To minimize global biodiversity losses, conservationists need to identify those species that are likely to be most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In this Review, we summarize different currencies used for assessing species' climate change vulnerability. We describe three main approaches used to derive these currencies (correlative, mechanistic and trait-based), and their associated data requirements, spatial and temporal scales of application and modelling methods. We identify strengths and weaknesses of the approaches and highlight the sources of uncertainty inherent in each method that limit projection reliability. Finally, we provide guidance for conservation practitioners in selecting the most appropriate approach(es) for their planning needs and highlight priority areas for further assessments.

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Acknowledgements

This review was partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (1136586).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Global Mammal Assessment program, Department of Biology and Biotechnologies, Sapienza Università di Roma, Viale dell'Università 32, I-00185 Rome, Italy

    • Michela Pacifici
    • , Piero Visconti
    •  & Carlo Rondinini
  2. Climate Change Specialist Group, Species Survival Commission, IUCN, 28 rue Mauverney, Gland CH-1196, Switzerland

    • Michela Pacifici
    • , Wendy B. Foden
    • , James E. M. Watson
    • , Stuart H.M. Butchart
    • , Kit M. Kovacs
    • , Brett R. Scheffers
    • , David G. Hole
    • , Tara G. Martin
    • , H. Resit Akçakaya
    • , Richard T. Corlett
    • , Brian Huntley
    • , David Bickford
    • , Jamie A. Carr
    • , Ary A. Hoffmann
    • , Guy F. Midgley
    • , Paul Pearce-Kelly
    • , Richard G. Pearson
    • , Stephen E. Williams
    • , Bruce Young
    •  & Carlo Rondinini
  3. School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Wits 2050, South Africa

    • Wendy B. Foden
  4. Microsoft Research Computational Science Laboratory, 21 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 FB, UK

    • Piero Visconti
  5. School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • James E. M. Watson
  6. Global Conservation Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10460, USA

    • James E. M. Watson
  7. BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Road, Cambridge CB3 0NA, UK

    • Stuart H.M. Butchart
  8. Norwegian Polar Institute, FRAM Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway

    • Kit M. Kovacs
  9. Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

    • Brett R. Scheffers
    •  & Stephen E. Williams
  10. Science & Knowledge Division, Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500, Arlington, Virginia 22202, USA

    • David G. Hole
  11. ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, NERP Environmental Decisions Hub, Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • Tara G. Martin
  12. CSIRO Land and Water, Ecosciences Precinct, Dutton Park, Brisbane, Queensland 4102, Australia

    • Tara G. Martin
  13. Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA

    • H. Resit Akçakaya
  14. Center for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yunnan 666303, China

    • Richard T. Corlett
  15. School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK

    • Brian Huntley
    •  & Stephen G. Willis
  16. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, 117543, Singapore

    • David Bickford
  17. Climate Change Unit, IUCN Global Species Programme, 189 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DL, UK

    • Jamie A. Carr
  18. Department of Genetics, Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

    • Ary A. Hoffmann
  19. Africa Department of Botany and Zoology, University of Stellenbosch, P/Bag X1, Matieland, 7602 Stellenbosch, South Africa

    • Guy F. Midgley
  20. Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK

    • Paul Pearce-Kelly
  21. Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Richard G. Pearson
  22. NatureServe, 4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22203, USA

    • Bruce Young

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Contributions

M.P., P.V., C.R., J.E.M.W. and W.B.F. designed the framework for the review. All authors contributed to the writing, discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michela Pacifici.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2448