Identifying Species in Pennsylvania Potentially Vulnerable to Climate Change

From the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, the goals of this project were to first compile a priority list of species occurring in Pennsylvania that are likely vulnerable to climate change, and to then examine the climate change vulnerability of species included in the priority list. The overall objective was to not only identify climate change vulnerable species but to also examine the abiotic factors and life history characteristics that contribute to their increased vulnerability.

First, a priority list of species for climate change assessment was compiled based on those species contained in Pennsylvania’s State Wildlife Action Plan (WAP), species’ distribution, potential vulnerable habitat types, and expert opinion. In total, 525 species were included in the list, 15 amphibians, 41 birds, 55 fish, 102 invertebrates, 19 mammals, 22 mussels, 253 plants, and 18 reptiles (see Appendix 1 for species lists).

From this priority list, climate change vulnerability assessments were completed for 85 of the species using the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI v2.0) developed by NatureServe. The CCVI allows the user to examine the exposure and sensitivity of a species to a series of risk factors associated with climate change.

The results of these assessments are summarized in the report by taxonomic group. The assessments indicate that amphibians and mussels were the most vulnerable groups. Insects, plants, mammals and reptiles exhibited a wider range of variability to climate change vulnerability, while birds and cave invertebrates appeared to be less vulnerable to short-term climate change effects.

The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program is a partnership between The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The PA Fish and Boat Commission and The PA Game Commission, and is a member of the International Network of Heritage Programs called NatureServe.

Publication Date: June 2011

Related Organizations:

  • Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment

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