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November 22, 2023

Title: Adaptive capacity as a lens to inform decisions on conservation status, invasive species, & climate-adaptation actions 

Speaker: Erik Beever, Research Ecologist, USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

Date: December 1, 2023 from 2:00pm - 2:30pm ET

Climate-change vulnerability assessments of species, which typically evaluate the factors of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, inform adaptation planning and climate-smart conservation. Adaptive capacity (AC) is a species’ or population’s ability to cope with or adjust to changing climatic conditions, through processes like evolutionary adaptation, range shifts, and behavioral flexibility. The topic of adaptive capacity is typically ignored in most vulnerability assessments, or lumped with sensitivity; both of these approaches provide an inaccurate portrait of species’ and populations’ resilience. Evaluating and communicating species’ adaptive capacity is critical for accurate vulnerability assessments and can also be used to inform numerous near-term management actions and decisions, including: allocation of conservation attention and resources, species status assessments, selection of effective management options to avoid species listings, setting harvest limits, among others. To improve the operationalization of AC information, we initiated a collaborative partnership among the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and state, university, and NGO partners. The ultimate goal of the project is to build a community of practice, while strengthening the use of AC information in natural-resource management and conservation. Dr. Beever will discuss the various ways that the approaches and the framework that the group developed are being implemented for particular species. These include a global review of the contexts in which animals have exhibited behavioral flexibility to cope with weather and climate, a comprehensive framework to evaluate the AC of any species or population, a tool to identify potential climate-adaptation actions that conservation practitioners (such as land and wildlife managers) might consider implementing, and practical considerations for grappling with and utilizing the evolutionary AC of species or populations in conservation decisions, among others.

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