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Mapping the drivers of climate change vulnerability for Australia’s threatened species
 

Lee JR, Maggini R, Taylor MFJ & Fuller RA (2015) Mapping the drivers of climate change vulnerability for Australia’s threatened species. PLoS ONE, 10, e0124766.

Effective conservation management for climate adaptation rests on understanding the factors driving species’ vulnerability in a spatially explicit manner so as to direct on-ground action. However, there have been only few attempts to map the spatial distribution of the factors driving vulnerability to climate change. Here we conduct a species-level assessment of climate change vulnerability for a sample of Australia’s threatened species and map the distribution of species affected by each factor driving climate change vulnerability across the continent. Almost half of the threatened species assessed were considered vulnerable to the impacts of climate change: amphibians being the most vulnerable group, followed by plants, reptiles, mammals and birds. Species with more restricted distributions were more likely to show high climate change vulnerability than widespread species. The main factors driving climate change vulnerability were low genetic variation, dependence on a particular disturbance regime and reliance on a particular moisture regime or habitat. The geographic distribution of the species impacted by each driver varies markedly across the continent, for example species impacted by low genetic variation are prevalent across the human-dominated south-east of the country, while reliance on particular moisture regimes is prevalent across northern Australia. Our results show that actions to address climate adaptation will need to be spatially appropriate, and that in some regions a complex suite of factors driving climate change vulnerability will need to be addressed. Taxonomic and geographic variation in the factors driving climate change vulnerability highlights an urgent need for a spatial prioritisation of climate adaptation actions for threatened species.

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