The Vulnerability of Provincially Rare Species (Species-at-Risk) to Climate Change in the Lake Simcoe Watershed, Ontario, Canada

Applied Research and Development, Ontario Forest Research Institute, Ministry of Natural ResourcesBrinker SR

An important precursor to creating natural resource management adaptation strategies in a rapidly changing climate is to identify the vulnerability of selected assets in a study area. We used NatureServe’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) on a subset of provincially rare species inhabiting the Lake Simcoe watershed, Ontario, Canada, to identify species that are potentially vulnerable to climate change. Of the 62 provincially rare species known to inhabit the watershed, we completed vulnerability assessments for 17 high priority species. Of those species, six were identified as vulnerable. Redside dace (Clinostomus elongatus) was scored as extremely vulnerable, followed by Schweinitz’s sedge (Carex schweinitzii), which was scored as highly vulnerable. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), eastern prairie fringed-orchid (Platanthera leucophaea), ram’s-head lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) and Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) were all scored as moderately vulnerable species. Key vulnerabilities associated with many of these species in the Lake Simcoe watershed included their specialized life history requirements, limited dispersal capabilities coupled with many barriers to movement, restricted distribution, high degree of habitat specialization, and specific physiological requirements related to temperature and moisture. We propose that more systematic and complete baseline data be collected for these species across their range within the study area as a basis for future quantitative monitoring. We suggest that the vulnerabilities of each species be integrated with other known stressors, and that adaptive measures focus on reducing vulnerabilities that affect multiple species to maximize efficiency.

NatureServe Author(s)


  • Brinker SR and Jones C. 2012. The vulnerability of provincially rare species (species at risk) to climate change in the Lake Simcoe Watershed, Ontario, Canada. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Applied Research and Development Branch. Climate change research report No. 31.