Adaptive Capacity: The Linchpin for Understanding and Addressing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change Impacts

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Different species have different ways of coping with changing climate conditions. Some species may move to more-favorable habitats, others may change their behavior (such as by shifting their diets), and still others may change the timing of life-cycle events (such as migration). The ability of a species to accommodate changing conditions is known as its “adaptive capacity”. Understanding the ...

Different species have different ways of coping with changing climate conditions. Some species may move to more-favorable habitats, others may change their behavior (such as by shifting their diets), and still others may change the timing of life-cycle events (such as migration). The ability of a species to  accommodate changing conditions is known as its “adaptive capacity”. Understanding the adaptive capacity of different species is a critical component of identifying which species are most vulnerable to climate change, and can ultimately inform the prioritization of conservation efforts.

 

The goal of this project is to create a framework providing natural resource managers with a means of assessing the ability of species to cope with the effects of climate change. To develop this framework, researchers will:

1.Synthesize the current scientific understanding of species’ adaptive capacity;

2.Work with natural-resource managers to identify remaining information needs regarding species’ adaptive capacity; and

3.Identify management and/or conservation actions that can  facilitate these adaptive capacity traits, while supporting key natural-resource management challenges



This project represents a collaborative effort between federal, state, and NGO partners, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Not only will the results support more-effective species and habitat conservation, but many species play pivotal roles in flood control (e.g., beavers), insect control (e.g., bats), pollination (e.g., birds), and other ecosystems services – giving this project both ecological and economic relevance.  This project provides some seeds of hope that species may be able to cope with contemporary climate change in certain circumstances, and also helps to clarify what the ecological and environmental contexts are in which such coping can occur.