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Agency plans are inadequate to conserve US endangered species under climate change

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Abstract and Figures

Despite widespread evidence of climate change as a threat to biodiversity, it is unclear whether government policies and agencies are adequately addressing this threat to species. Here we evaluate species sensitivity, a component of climate change vulnerability, and whether climate change is discussed as a threat in planning for climate-related management action in official documents from 1973 to 2018 for all 459 US animals listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. We find that 99.8% of species are sensitive to one or more of eight sensitivity factors, but agencies consider climate change as a threat to only 64% of species and plan management actions for only 18% of species. Agencies are more likely to plan actions for species sensitive to more factors, but such planning has declined since 2016. Results highlight the gap between climate change sensitivity and the attention from agencies charged with conserving endangered species.
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1Landscape Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington, DC, USA. 2Field Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, Seattle, WA, USA. 3Center for
Conservation Innovation, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington, DC, USA. 4Present address: Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC, USA.
5Present address: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, CA, USA. 6Present address: Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Commonwealth of
Massachusetts, Boston, MA, USA. 7Present address: Wildlife Habitat Council, Silver Spring, MD, USA. *e-mail:
Climate change is a threat to ecosystems and biodiversity glob-
ally1,2 and has emerged as a driver of observed and potential
species decline and extinction35. Government laws and poli-
cies should play a vital role in supporting climate change adapta-
tion for imperilled species, yet imperilled species protections have
been critiqued as insufficient in Australia6,7, Canada8 and Europe9.
Funding shortfalls for environmental programmes mean that
govern ments may not be adequately addressing baseline threats to
species10,11, let alone more complex emerging threats from climate
change1215. Furthermore, the politicization of climate change in
many countries, including the United States, has led to different lev-
els of concern and action on the topic among political parties16,17.
Understanding whether and to what extent government authorities
are supporting climate change adaptation, especially for imper-
illed species, is critical for improving tools and processes to reduce
climate change impacts on biodiversity18,19.
The primary law directing the conservation of imperilled
species in the United States is the Endangered Species Act20 (ESA).
Central to the listing and recovery processes under the ESA is the
enumeration and abatement of threats to species. The law directs
the secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to use the “best avail-
able scientific and commercial data” to make listing determinations
on the basis of five threat factors: (1) habitat destruction and degra-
dation, (2) overutilization, (3) disease or predation, (4) inadequacy
of existing protections or (5) other factors. While each factor may
result from or be exacerbated by climate change, this threat is not
explicitly described among the five factors. This is likely because
the ESA was most recently amended legislatively in 198821, the same
year as the formation of the IPCC and 4 yr before the first detailed
discussion of the consequences of climate change for biological
diversity in the United States22.
Nonetheless, the two agencies responsible for implementing
the ESA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), have explicitly recognized the
threat that climate change poses to species and the need to man-
age for its impacts. The FWS first described climate change as
a threat in its January 2007 proposal to list the polar bear (Ursus
maritimus) as threatened. Later that year, discussion of climate
change appeared in recovery plans for the Indiana bat (Myotis soda-
lis) and Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) and in 5 yr
reviews for the red wolf (Canis rufus) and five sea turtle species (for
references to species ESA documents, see the link in data avail-
ability). The only assessment of climate change in ESA documents
to date (to our knowledge) found that by the end of 2008, 87% of
species recovery plans still did not address whether climate change
was a threat18. The scientific community has identified climate
change as the ‘primary threat’ to nearly 40% of ESA-listed animals
and over 50% of ESA-listed plants in the United States10, and agency
options for climate-related management action under the ESA have
been available for over a decade23. Thus, it is vital to understand
whether the lead agencies responsible for endangered species con-
servation have improved the use of their authority to help species
adapt to the threat of climate change.
To determine whether threats from climate change are being
addressed by US agencies, we compared the climate change sensi-
tivity of species with agencies’ discussion of climate change and
plans for managing climate change threats for the 459 ESA-listed
endangered animals found within US lands and waters. Because
climate change sensitivity had not been systematically assessed for
many of these species, we developed a trait-based climate change
sensitivity assessment24. This assessment is a simplified version of
existing tools (Methods) and provides a preliminary evaluation
of whether and which species’ life history and biological charac-
teristics contribute to sensitivity to climate change (see Table 1).
We focused on sensitivity (and related traits sometimes character-
ized as measures of adaptive capacity) because these, rather than
Agency plans are inadequate to conserve US
endangered species under climate change
Aimee Delach 1*, Astrid Caldas 1,4, Kiel M. Edson 1,5, Robb Krehbiel2, Sarah Murray 1,
Kathleen A. Theoharides1,6, Lauren J. Vorhees 1,7, Jacob W. Malcom 3, Mark N. Salvo1 and
Jennifer R. B. Miller 3
Despite widespread evidence of climate change as a threat to biodiversity, it is unclear whether government policies and agen-
cies are adequately addressing this threat to species. Here we evaluate species sensitivity, a component of climate change
vulnerability, and whether climate change is discussed as a threat in planning for climate-related management action in official
documents from 1973 to 2018 for all 459 US animals listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. We find that
99.8% of species are sensitive to one or more of eight sensitivity factors, but agencies consider climate change as a threat to
only 64% of species and plan management actions for only 18% of species. Agencies are more likely to plan actions for species
sensitive to more factors, but such planning has declined since 2016. Results highlight the gap between climate change sensi-
tivity and the attention from agencies charged with conserving endangered species.
NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE | VOL 9 | DECEMBER 2019 | 999–1004 | 999
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... The last major amendment to the ESA was in 1988 [39]. The first ESA listed animal to evaluate climate change as a primary threat for their listing was the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) in 2008, followed by many more species that same year [40]. Since this 2008 listing, there has not been an amendment to the ESA, so climate change continues to be generally considered either as a contributor to "Habitat destruction" or as one of the "Other factors" in a species assessment. ...
... In 2019, Delach et al. assessed the sensitivity of 459 endangered animals to climate change, if climate change was listed as a threat, and if any actions were implemented to mitigate climate change. They found that almost all animal species are sensitive to climate change, but only 64% listed climate change as a threat and even fewer (18%) had management actions in place [40]. This more recent evaluation has not been carried out for plants. ...
... Using Delach et al. 2019 as a reference, we modified a trait-based assessment to determine how sensitive a plant or lichen species is to climate change [40]. Sensitivity is defined as the "innate characteristics of a species or system and considers tolerance to changes in such things as temperature, precipitation, fire regimes, and other key processes" [55]. ...
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The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was a landmark protection for rare organisms in the United States. Although the ESA is known for its protection of wildlife, a majority of listed species are actually plants and lichen. Climate change will impact species populations globally. Already-rare species, like those listed in the ESA, are at an even higher risk due to climate change. Despite this, the risk climate change poses to endangered plants has not been systematically evaluated in over a decade. To address this gap, we modified previously existing qualitative assessment toolkits used to examine the threat of climate change in federal documentation on listed wildlife. These modified toolkits were then applied to the 771 ESA listed plants. First, we evaluated how sensitive ESA listed plants and lichens were to climate change based on nine quantitative sensitivity factors. Then, we evaluated if climate change was recognized as a threat for a species, and if actions were being taken to address the threats of climate change. We found that all ESA listed plant and lichen species are at least slightly (score of 1) sensitive to climate change, and therefore all listed plants and lichens are threatened by climate change. While a majority of ESA listing and recovery documents recognized climate change as a threat, very few had actions being taken in their recovery plans to address climate change directly. While acknowledging the threat that climate change poses to rare plants is an important first step, direct action will need to be taken to ensure the recovery of many of these species.
... However, there are gaps between managers' understanding of the importance of climate change, the use of climate information in planning efforts, and implementation of adaptation actions (Cross et al., 2013;Dilling et al., 2019;Donatti et al., 2019;Peterson St-Laurent et al., 2021). Although natural resource managers increasingly recognize the importance of using climate change information to inform conservation, this information is currently underutilized (Archie et al., 2014;Delach et al., 2019;Ellenwood et al., 2012;Lemieux et al., 2013). To close these gaps, there is a need for better guidance on how to use climate change to inform conservation planning (c.f., Archie et al., 2014;Yocum & Ray, 2019). ...
... A review of 185 Comprehensive Conservation Plans for the US National Wildlife Refuge System found that plans varied in the extent to which they addressed climate change but also identified excellent examples within the plans that, if compiled and shared across planning entities, could improve planning efforts (Meretsky & Fischman, 2014). However, reviews of other conservation planning documents have found disconnects between managers' understanding of climate changerelated risks to conservation and the inclusion of potential adaptation strategies or actions in plans (Fontaine, 2011;Delach et al., 2019;Hoeppner & Hughes, 2019). These gaps may result in conservation efforts that fall short of conservation goals (c.f., Delach et al., 2019). ...
... However, reviews of other conservation planning documents have found disconnects between managers' understanding of climate changerelated risks to conservation and the inclusion of potential adaptation strategies or actions in plans (Fontaine, 2011;Delach et al., 2019;Hoeppner & Hughes, 2019). These gaps may result in conservation efforts that fall short of conservation goals (c.f., Delach et al., 2019). ...
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Assessing how climate change information is used in conservation planning is an important part of meeting long‐term conservation and climate adaptation goals. In the United States, state agencies responsible for fish and wildlife management create State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) to identify conservation goals, prioritize actions, and establish plans for managing and monitoring target species and habitats. We created a rubric to assess and compare the use of climate change information in SWAPs for 10 states in the Intermountain West and Great Plains. Interviews with SWAP authors identified institutional factors influencing applications of climate change information. Access to professional networks and climate scientists, funding support for climate change vulnerability analysis, Congressional mandates to include climate change, and supportive agency leadership facilitate using climate change information. Political climate could either support or limit options for using this information. Together, the rubric and the interview results can be used to identify opportunities to improve the use of climate information, and to identify entry points to support conservation planning and natural resource managers in successful adaptation to climate change. This research is directly relevant to future SWAP revisions, which most states will complete by 2025, and more broadly to other conservation planning processes.
... Climate change represents a threat for many organisms, including nearly all species listed as "endangered" under the ESA (Delach et al., 2019). Within the Mojave, 11 of 24 plant species listed as threatened or endangered are vulnerable to climate change (Wilkening et al., 2021). ...
... Within the Mojave, 11 of 24 plant species listed as threatened or endangered are vulnerable to climate change (Wilkening et al., 2021). However, climate change is often not considered in status assessments and is rarely included in management plans (Delach et al., 2019). For example, the 2019 USFWS decision not to list Joshua trees as endangered species explicitly avoided developing new species distribution models (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2018). ...
The Mojave Desert contains the hottest, driest regions in North America and is also one of the most ecologically intact regions in the contiguous United States. However, a confluence of factors including urbanization, climate change, and energy development are rapidly transforming this ecoregion. As a result of these growing threats, even common, widespread Mojave Desert endemics are at risk of being driven to extinction by the end of the 21st century. Ironically, renewable energy development that could delay or even reverse the effects of climate change in the region is also a potentially significant source of habitat loss for these same organisms. Protecting the Mojave therefore presents difficult choices about how to select among different conservation priorities. We argue that these choices will necessarily involve compromises in which protections for some habitats will have to be prioritized while allowing development in other areas. We review the state of conservation in the Mojave and use the Mojave Desert's iconic Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia and Y. jaegeriana) as a case study to describe a framework for identifying habitats that should be given the highest levels of protection to ensure climate change resilience. Finally, using existing spatial data, we evaluate land use and conservation status in the Mojave. The result identifies considerable scope for compromise between conservation and renewable energy development. Although our examples are specific to the Mojave, we argue that these recommendations apply broadly to many biological communities threatened by climate change.
... [7][8][9] Understanding and addressing current gaps in planning can help ensure effective recovery action. Delach et al. (2019) assessed the climate change sensitivity for all 459 animals listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with ranges at least partly within the US or its territories. They also evaluated whether climate change is discussed as a threat and whether agencies described climaterelated management action in o cial documents published by the two federal agencies that implement conservation and recovery actions under the ESA-the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)-from the Act's inception in 1973 through the end of 2018. ...
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We updated previous research on inclusion of climate change in listing and conservation planning for animals listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act, to include documents published through 2022. Inclusion of climate change as a threat has improved from 64% to 85% and action planning more than doubled, from 18% to 38%. Despite improvement, the majority of our most imperiled species still lack climate adaptation actions.
... several challenges for their persistence due to manifold local stressors, rapid anthropogenic climate change is driving them even closer to extinction (Delach et al., 2019;IPCC, 2014). Under a fast-shifting climate, the identification of species under a higher risk to changes in climatic conditions constitutes a first step toward prioritizing our conservation actions (Foden et al., 2019). ...
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Rapid anthropogenic climate change is driving threatened biodiversity one step closer to extinction. Effects on native biodiversity are determined by an interplay between species' exposure to climate change and their specific ecological and life-history characteristics that render them even more susceptible. Impacts on biodiversity have already been reported, however, a systematic risk evaluation of threatened marine populations is lacking. Here, we employ a trait-based approach to assess the risk of 90 threatened marine Mediterranean species to climate change, combining species' exposure to increased sea temperature and intrinsic vulnerability. One-quarter of the threatened marine biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea is predicted to be under elevated levels of climate risk, with various traits identified as key vulnerability traits. High-risk taxa including sea turtles, marine mammals, Anthozoa and Chondrichthyes are highlighted. Climate risk, vulnerability and exposure hotspots are distributed along the Western Mediterranean, Alboran, Aegean, and Adriatic Seas. At each Mediterranean marine ecoregion, 21% to 31% of their threatened species have high climate risk. All Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas host threatened species with high risk to climate change, with 90% having a minimum of 4 up to 19 species of high climate risk, making the objective of a climate-smart conservation strategy a crucial task for immediate planning and action. Our findings aspire to offer new insights for systematic, spatially strategic planning and prioritization of vulnerable marine life in the face of accelerating climate change.
... However, whether naturally low bacteriome diversity hampers adaptive immune processes or efficacy of probiotic strategies is unresolved. Also, critical to threatened species conservation is the intersection of the host bacteriome and increasingly extreme temperature fluctuations associated with anthropogenic climate change, one of the most serious threats to listed species [28]. Our findings bring to light the urgency in characterizing microbial baselines for threatened species, not only as reference points for probiotics, but also to maximize success of wildlife 'ark' programs. ...
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Microbial diversity positively influences community resilience of the host microbiome. However, extinction risk factors such as habitat specialization, narrow environmental tolerances, and exposure to anthropogenic disturbance may homogenize host-associated microbial communities critical for stress responses including disease defense. In a dataset containing 43 threatened and 90 non-threatened amphibian species across two biodiversity hotspots (Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and Madagascar), we found that threatened host species carried lower skin bacterial diversity, after accounting for key environmental and host factors. The consistency of our findings across continents suggests the broad scale at which low bacteriome diversity may compromise pathogen defenses in species already burdened with the threat of extinction.
... Under national laws aimed at species conservation, such as the US Endangered Species Act, addressing extant conventional threats has arguably often garnered higher priority than preemptive management in the face of climate change (Delach et al. 2019). Nonetheless, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating (as of November 2021) the use of techniques such as translocations, reintroductions, genetic supplementation of in situ populations and the use of captive breeding to create ex situ insurance populations and head starting offspring for numerous species whose range has become markedly more fragmented than the historical range and for which local adaptation was used to help delineate conservation or recovery units (e.g., the rusty-patched bumble bee, USFWS 2021b; the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, USFWS 2021c; the Dakota skipper, USFWS 2019). ...
Adaptation within species to local environments is widespread in nature. Better understanding this local adaptation is critical to conserving biodiversity. However, conservation practices can rely on species’ trait averages or can broadly assume homogeneity across the range to inform management. Recent methodological advances for studying local adaptation provide the opportunity to fine-tune efforts for managing and conserving species. The implementation of these advances will allow us to better identify populations at greatest risk of decline because of climate change, as well as highlighting possible strategies for improving the likelihood of population persistence amid climate change. In the present article, we review recent advances in the study of local adaptation and highlight ways these tools can be applied in conservation efforts. Cutting-edge tools are available to help better identify and characterize local adaptation. Indeed, increased incorporation of local adaptation in management decisions may help meet the imminent demands of managing species amid a rapidly changing world.
Species vulnerable to climate change face increased extinction risk, but many sensitive species may be overlooked due to limited data and exclusion from vulnerability assessments. Intrinsic sensitivity, or the inherent risk of species to environmental change due to biological factors, can be assessed with widely available data and may address gaps in multispecies vulnerability assessments. Species that exist in few places (geographically rare) and in fewer climates (smaller realized climate niche breadth) have high intrinsic sensitivity to environmental change. Using point occurrences, we systematically evaluated intrinsic sensitivity based on geographic rarity and realized climate niche breadth for 90 species of frogs and toads native to the United States using over 140,000 occurrence records. To relate sensitivity to perceived extinction risk, we compared intrinsic sensitivity to conservation status at state, federal, and international levels. We found no relationship between intrinsic sensitivity and federal or state conservation status, and some intrinsically sensitive species (i.e., those with small areas of occurrence and narrow climate specificity) were not listed as at risk at any level. Intrinsic sensitivity analysis can serve as an early warning system for species that may be currently at risk and overlooked.
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Wildlife is declining around the world. Many developed nations have enacted legislation on endangered species protection and provide funding for wildlife recovery. Protecting endangered species is also supported by the public and judiciary. Yet, despite what appear as enabling conditions, wild species continue to decline. Our paper explores pathways to endangered species recovery by analyzing the barriers that have been identified in Canada, the United States, and Australia. We summarize these findings based on Canada’s Species at Risk Conservation Cycle (assessment, protection, recovery planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation) and then identify 10 “bridges” that could help overcome these barriers and bend our current trajectory of wildlife loss to recovery. These bridges include ecosystem approaches to recovery, building capacity for community co-governance, linking wildlife recovery to ecosystem services, and improving our storytelling about the loss and recovery of wildlife. The focus of our conclusions is the Canadian setting, but our findings can be applied in other national and subnational settings to reverse the decline of wildlife and halt extinction.
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The rapidly changing climate is posing growing threats for all species, but particularly for those already considered threatened. We reviewed 100 recovery plans for Australian terrestrial threatened species (50 fauna and 50 flora plans) written from 1997 to 2017. We recorded the number of plans that acknowledged climate change as a threat and of these how many proposed specific actions to ameliorate the threat. We classified these actions along a continuum from passive or incremental to active or interventionist. Overall, just under 60% of the sampled recovery plans listed climate change as a current or potential threat to the threatened taxa, and the likelihood of this acknowledgment increased over time. A far smaller proportion of the plans, however, identified specific actions associated with ameliorating climate risk (22%) and even fewer (9%) recommended any interventionist action in response to a climate‐change‐associated threat. Our results point to a disconnect between the knowledge generated on climate‐change‐related risk and potential adaptation strategies and the extent to which this knowledge has been incorporated into an important instrument of conservation action. Article impact statements: Recovery plans for threatened species should account for climate change, and bolder actions to reduce risk from climate change are needed. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
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We discuss here the merits of an explicit resource allocation framework and introduce a prototype decision tool that we developed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to facilitate transparent and efficient recover allocation decisions.
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Few assessments of species vulnerability to climate change used to inform conservation management consider the intrinsic traits that shape species’ capacity to respond to climate change. This omission is problematic as it may result in management actions that are not optimised for the long-term persistence of species as climates shift. We present a tool for explicitly linking data on plant species’ life history traits and range characteristics to appropriate management actions that maximise their capacity to respond to climate change. We deliberately target data on easily measured and widely available traits (e.g. dispersal syndrome, height, longevity) and range characteristics (e.g. range size, climatic/soil niche breadth), to allow for rapid comparison across many species. We test this framework on 1237 plants, categorising species on the basis of their potential climate change risk as related to four factors affecting their response capacity: reproduction, movement capability, abiotic niche specialisation and spatial coverage. Based on these four factors, species were allocated risk scores, and these were used to test the hypothesis that the current protection status under national legislation and related management actions capture species response capacity to climate change. Our results indicate that 20% of the plant species analysed (242 species) are likely to have a low capacity to respond to climate change based on the traits assessed, and are therefore at high risk. Of the 242 high risk species, only 10% (24 species) are currently listed for protection under conservation legislation. Importantly, many management plans for these listed species fail to address the capacity of species to respond to climate change with appropriate actions: 70% of approved management plans do not include crucial actions which may improve species’ ability to adapt to climate change. We illustrate how the use of easily attainable traits associated with ecological and evolutionary responses to changing environmental conditions can inform conservation actions for plant species globally.
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Assessing species' vulnerability to climate change is a prerequisite for developing effective strategies to conserve them. The last three decades have seen exponential growth in the number of studies evaluating how, how much, why, when, and where species will be impacted by climate change. We provide an overview of the rapidly developing field of climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA) and describe key concepts, terms, steps and considerations. We stress the importance of identifying the full range of pressures, impacts and their associated mechanisms that species face and using this as a basis for selecting the appropriate assessment approaches for quantifying vulnerability. We outline four CCVA assessment approaches, namely trait‐based, correlative, mechanistic and combined approaches and discuss their use. Since any assessment can deliver unreliable or even misleading results when incorrect data and parameters are applied, we discuss finding, selecting, and applying input data and provide examples of open‐access resources. Because rare, small‐range, and declining‐range species are often of particular conservation concern while also posing significant challenges for CCVA, we describe alternative ways to assess them. We also describe how CCVAs can be used to inform IUCN Red List assessments of extinction risk. Finally, we suggest future directions in this field and propose areas where research efforts may be particularly valuable. This article is categorized under: • Climate, Ecology, and Conservation > Extinction Risk
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The practice of conservation occurs within complex socioecological systems fraught with challenges that require transparent, defensible, and often socially engaged project planning and management. Planning and decision support frameworks are designed to help conservation practitioners increase planning rigor, project accountability, stakeholder participation, transparency in decisions, and learning. We describe and contrast five common frameworks within the context of six fundamental questions (why, who, what, where, when, how) at each of three planning stages of adaptive management (project scoping, operational planning, learning). We demonstrate that decision support frameworks provide varied and extensive tools for conservation planning and management. However, using any framework in isolation risks diminishing potential benefits since no one framework covers the full spectrum of potential conservation planning and decision challenges. We describe two case studies that have effectively deployed tools from across conservation frameworks to improve conservation actions and outcomes. Attention to the critical questions for conservation project planning should allow practitioners to operate within any framework and adapt tools to suit their specific management context. We call on conservation researchers and practitioners to regularly use decision support tools as standard practice for framing both practice and research.
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Climate change vulnerability assessments are commonly used to identify species at risk from global climate change, but the wide range of methodologies available makes it difficult for end users, such as conservation practitioners or policymakers, to decide which method to use as a basis for decision-making. In this study, we evaluate whether different assessments consistently assign species to the same risk categories and whether any of the existing methodologies perform well at identifying climate-threatened species. We compare the outputs of 12 climate change vulnerability assessment methodologies, using both real and simulated species, and validate the methods using historic data for British birds and butterflies (i.e. using historical data to assign risks and more recent data for validation). Our results show that the different vulnerability assessment methods are not consistent with one another; different risk categories are assigned for both the real and simulated sets of species. Validation of the different vulnerability assessments suggests that methods incorporating historic trend data into the assessment perform best at predicting distribution trends in subsequent time periods. This study demonstrates that climate change vulnerability assessments should not be used interchangeably due to the poor overall agreement between methods when considering the same species. The results of our validation provide more support for the use of trend-based rather than purely trait-based approaches, although further validation will be required as data become available.
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The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has succeeded in shielding hundreds of species from extinction and improving species recovery over time. However, recovery for most species officially protected by the ESA - i.e., listed species-has been harder to achieve than initially envisioned. Threats to species are persistent and pervasive, funding has been insufficient, the distribution of money among listed species is highly uneven, and at least 10 times more species than are actually listed probably qualify for listing. Moreover, many listed species will require ongoing management for the foreseeable future to protect them from persistent threats. Climate change will exacerbate this problem and increase both species risk and management uncertainty, requiring more intensive and controversial management strategies to prevent species from going extinct.
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There is a strong political divide on climate change in the US general public, with Liberals and Democrats expressing greater belief in and concern about climate change than Conservatives and Republicans. Recent studies find a similar though less pronounced divide in other countries. Its leadership in international climate policy making warrants extending this line of research to the European Union (EU). The extent of a left–right ideological divide on climate change views is examined via Eurobarometer survey data on the publics of 25 EU countries before the 2008 global financial crisis, the 2009 ‘climategate’ controversy and COP-15 in Copenhagen, and an increase in organized climate change denial campaigns. Citizens on the left consistently reported stronger belief in climate change and support for action to mitigate it than did citizens on the right in 14 Western European countries. There was no such ideological divide in 11 former Communist countries, likely due to the low political salience of climate change and the differing meaning of left–right identification in these countries.
Significance Although government funding available for species protection and recovery is one of the best predictors of successful recovery, government spending is both insufficient and highly disproportionate among groups of species. Here I demonstrate that expenditures for recovery in excess of the recommended recovery budget would not necessarily translate into better conservation outcomes. More importantly, elimination of the budget surplus for “costly yet futile” recovery plans can provide sufficient funding to offset funding deficits for more than 180 species. Using a return on investment analysis, I show that triage by budget compression provides better funding for a larger sample of species, and that a larger sample of adequately funded recovery plans should produce better outcomes even if by chance.