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Assessing the components of adaptive capacity to improve conservation and management efforts under global change

April 29, 2015

Natural-resource managers and other conservation practitioners are under unprecedented pressure to categorize and quantify the vulnerability of natural systems based on assessment of the exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of species to climate change. Despite the urgent need for these assessments, neither the theoretical basis of adaptive capacity nor the practical issues underlying its quantification has been articulated in a manner that is directly applicable to natural-resource management. Both are critical for researchers, managers, and other conservation practitioners to develop reliable strategies for assessing adaptive capacity. Drawing from principles of classical and contemporary research and examples from terrestrial, marine, plant, and animal systems, we examined broadly the theory behind the concept of adaptive capacity. We then considered how interdisciplinary, trait- and triage-based approaches encompassing the oft-overlooked interactions among components of adaptive capacity can be used to identify species and populations likely to have higher (or lower) adaptive capacity. We identified the challenges and value of such endeavors and argue for a concerted interdisciplinary research approach that combines ecology, ecological genetics, and eco-physiology to reflect the interacting components of adaptive capacity. We aimed to provide a basis for constructive discussion between natural-resource managers and researchers, discussions urgently needed to identify research directions that will deliver answers to real-world questions facing resource managers, other conservation practitioners, and policy makers. Directing research to both seek general patterns and identify ways to facilitate adaptive capacity of key species and populations within species, will enable conservation ecologists and resource managers to maximize returns on research and management investment and arrive at novel and dynamic management and policy decisions.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Assessing the components of adaptive capacity to improve conservation and management efforts under global change
DOI 10.1111/cobi.12522
Authors Adrienne Nicotra, Erik A. Beever, Amanda Robertson, Gretchen Hofmann, John O’Leary
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Biology
Index ID 70157232
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center