Develop IUCN best practice guidelines for assessing species’ vulnerability to Climate Change

Conservation practitioners wishing to carry out assessments of species’ vulnerability to climate change face a burgeoning literature describing a wide variety of methods, each with its own strengths and limitations. Similarly those wishing to use existing assessments increasingly encounter conflicting results from multiple sources. Based on a broad literature review and input from a wide range of experts, the IUCN SSC Climate Change Specialist Group is developing guidance for:

  1. Selecting methods for assessing species’ climate change vulnerability and interpreting their results.
  2. Interpret and use results from climate change vulnerability assessments in meaningful and responsible ways.

As a first step in development of these guidelines, we classified existing approaches and their application (Pacifici et al., 2015, Nature Climate Change). These approaches include correlative (niche-based), mechanistic and trait-based approaches. Outlining these in the guidelines, we then help users to clearly define the scope and objectives of their assessment, as well as to identify and evaluate their available data, technical, expertise, time and financial resources. Using a decision framework, we guide users to identify the approaches and methods that meet their objectives and/or are possible given their available resources. The guidelines also include sections on selection and appropriate use of climate and biological data, selecting temporal and spatial scales, and working with uncertainty, knowledge gaps and indirect climate change impacts. They also present ideas for communicating assessment results for practical conservation use and, lastly, provide examples of how the guidelines can be applied, including for IUCN Red Listing. Through these guidelines we hope to make climate change vulnerability assessment more accessible to conservation practitioners, thereby providing the best possible foundation for climate change adaptation planning.

The guidelines will be released for external review before the end of 2015. For more information contact Wendy Foden.