Towards an integrated framework for assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change

Williams, Stephen E., Shoo, Luke P., Isaac, Joanne L., Hoffmann, Ary A., and Langham, Gary (2008) Towards an integrated framework for assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change. PLoS Biology, 6 (12). e325. pp. 2621-2626.

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[Extract] Global climate change threatens global biodiversity, ecosystem function, and human well-being, with thousands of publications demonstrating impacts across a wide diversity of taxonomic groups, ecosystems, economics, and social structure. A review by Hughes [1] identified many of the ways that organisms may be affected by and/or respond to climate change. Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of case studies attesting to ecological impacts [2], prompting several recent reviews on the subject (e.g., [3–6]). Several global meta-analyses confirm the pervasiveness of the global climate change "fingerprint" across continents, ecosystems, processes, and species [7–9]. Some studies have predicted increasingly severe future impacts with potentially high extinction rates in natural systems around the world [10,11]. Responding to this threat will require a concerted, multi-disciplinary, multi-scale, multi-taxon research effort that improves our predictive capacity to identify and prioritise vulnerable species in order to inform governments of the seriousness of the threat and to facilitate conservation adaptation and management [12,13].

If we are to minimise global biodiversity loss, we need significant decreases in global emissions to be combined with environmental management that is guided by sensible prioritisation of relative vulnerability. That is, we need to determine which species, habitats, and ecosystems will be most vulnerable, exactly what aspects of their ecological and evolutionary biology determine their vulnerability, and what we can do about managing this vulnerability and minimising the realised impacts. There is an emerging literature on specific traits that promote vulnerability under climate change (e.g., thermal tolerance [14]) as well as a broad literature on the traits that influence species' vulnerability generally (e.g., review by [15]). Less is known about the various mechanisms for either ecological or evolutionary adaptation to climate change, although it is increasingly recognised as a vital component of assessing vulnerability [16,17].

Item ID: 5185
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1545-7885
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Publisher's note: Copyright: © 2008 Williams et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2009 23:56
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960301 Climate Change Adaptation Measures @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960302 Climate Change Mitigation Strategies @ 50%
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