- White Paper: Confronting Climate Change: An Organizational Strategy for NatureServe (PDF: 243KB)
- Fact Sheet: Predicting Future Change: A Climate Change Vulnerability Index (PDF: 125KB)
Director of Species Science
Confronting Climate Change
Using the NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index: A Nevada Case Study
Tthe State of Nevada is amending its State Wildlife Action Plan (“SWAP”) to incorporate the potential effects of climate change in more detail. The Nevada Department of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Nevada Natural Heritage Program (a NatureServe network member program), Lahontan Audubon Society, and Great Basin Bird Observatory have formed a partnership to complete the amendment.
Nevada’s SWAP was approved in 2006, and although it (like many other states’ plans) identified climate change as a stressor to key habitats and species of conservation concern in a few specific areas, it did not address the degree of vulnerability each species may face due to a warming climate. The initial focus of the amendment is on assessing the vulnerability of Nevada’s 263 Conservation Priority animal species, using the NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index. The partnership hopes to eventually expand the application of the Index to plants and other Nevada species.
The Nevada Natural Heritage Program applied the Index to a selection of priority species from the state. The Index provides a means of dividing species into groupings of relative risk to climate change and of identifying key factors causing species to be vulnerable. Used with standard conservation status assessments such as the NatureServe G- and S-rank system, the Index can help land managers evaluate the likely effectiveness of alternative strategies to promote adaptation of species to climate change as well as select key species to monitor.
An initial assessment of 13 Nevada species yielded the following results, sorted by vulnerability category. Within categories, species are sorted by conservation status to further order the severity of the risk.
|Clover Valley speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus oligoporus)||Highly Vulnerable||S1||G5T1|
(Limenitis archippus lahontani)
|Lahontan cutthroat trout
(Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi)
|Northern leopard frog
(Draba cusickii var. pedicellata)
|Desert horned lizard
The study also lists the factors that contributed to the vulnerability scores in order to highlight how climate change will have the greatest effect on the species assessed. For example, for the mountain beaver, its vulnerability to the effects of climate change is increased by natural barriers to its range, its inherent dispersal ability, and its macro-level precipitation requirements. Other factors that increase the vulnerability for several of these initial species are their micro-scale temperature and precipitation requirements, migration needs, and specialized physical habitat requirements. Understanding which factors have the greatest potential impact can suggest which management actions would be most beneficial—and therefore most important to include in the amendment to the Nevada SWAP.