Environmental Management

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 322–337 | Cite as

Approaches to Evaluating Climate Change Impacts on Species: A Guide to Initiating the Adaptation Planning Process

  • Erika L. RowlandEmail author
  • Jennifer E. Davison
  • Lisa J. Graumlich


Assessing the impact of climate change on species and associated management objectives is a critical initial step for engaging in the adaptation planning process. Multiple approaches are available. While all possess limitations to their application associated with the uncertainties inherent in the data and models that inform their results, conducting and incorporating impact assessments into the adaptation planning process at least provides some basis for making resource management decisions that are becoming inevitable in the face of rapidly changing climate. Here we provide a non-exhaustive review of long-standing (e.g., species distribution models) and newly developed (e.g., vulnerability indices) methods used to anticipate the response to climate change of individual species as a guide for managers grappling with how to begin the climate change adaptation process. We address the limitations (e.g., uncertainties in climate change projections) associated with these methods, and other considerations for matching appropriate assessment approaches with the management questions and goals. Thorough consideration of the objectives, scope, scale, time frame and available resources for a climate impact assessment allows for informed method selection. With many data sets and tools available on-line, the capacity to undertake and/or benefit from existing species impact assessments is accessible to those engaged in resource management. With some understanding of potential impacts, even if limited, adaptation planning begins to move toward the development of management strategies and targeted actions that may help to sustain functioning ecosystems and their associated services into the future.


Climate change Vulnerability assessments Management Species Adaptation planning 



This research was supported in part by funds provided by the Rocky Mountain Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. We appreciate the thoughtful comments of three anonymous reviewers and M. Cross that contributed greatly to the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erika L. Rowland
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jennifer E. Davison
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lisa J. Graumlich
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.College of the EnvironmentUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Wildlife Conservation SocietyBozemanUSA

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