Southeastern Asia, western and central Europe and eastern South America are among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, according to a new analysis published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change. Risk maps of climate impacts such as this are potentially useful for targeting conservation efforts.
Most risk mapping exercises focus on the identification of those areas that are expected to experience the greatest changes in climate. However this is only part of the vulnerability ‘equation’, with regional ecological sensitivity and capacity to adapt also shaping vulnerability to climate change.
James Watson and colleagues expand on previous analyses by identifying the proportion of intact natural vegetation (as a measure of adaptive capacity) to provide global estimates of ecoregional vulnerability to climate change. They found that the relationship between adaptive capacity and climate stability (exposure) varies widely across ecoregions, and highlight different hotspots of climate change vulnerability to those assessments that focus only on climate. The authors also emphasize the potential implications of this vulnerability assessment for conservation planning, and offer a spatially explicit guide to conservation management.