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Vulnerability of aquatic species and their habitats: Annotated bibliography

January, 2012 to December, 2013


Climate change vulnerability assessments are a way to draw multiple sources of information into a framework that identifies management intervention points. Vulnerability is defined as the degree to which a system is susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change. Climate change vulnerability assessments quantify each of these elements; exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity, in order to prioritize management and research needs based on likely climate futures. Importantly, vulnerability assessments are not simply analyses of impact (e.g., observed or predicted change in species range due to changes in climate) but also include methods for assessing coping strategies (dispersal) to the expected change.

Vulnerability assessments are amendable to a wide variety of data sources and can be based on many types of measures of sensitivity or adaptive capacity. They can be designed to provide ranks, georeferenced maps, and management intervention points. For this reason, climate change vulnerability assessments are commonly used to integrate current knowledge into actionable management strategies. However, the diversity of methods and outputs found within the vulnerability assessment literature can limit efforts to identify relevant studies and challenges the development of effective adaptation options.

The scope of a vulnerability assessment relates to its scale. Large-scale (e.g. nationwide) assessments tend to be comprehensive but lack detail required for planning and management at individual sites. Locally focused assessments are able to identify specific site level issues and are more likely to explore a range of possible outcomes. However, the small geographic scope of these assessments limits their application to other systems.

Literature on Vulnerability Assessment and Climate Effects

In 2012, the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) identified a need for synthesis products and tools to help managers identify vulnerability assessments and literature relevant to the Interior Western U.S. In response to this need, Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists compiled climate change vulnerability literature for the western U.S. with a focus on the states and regions within the Southern Rockies LCC boundary. A synthesis of this initial review is available here or users can search for literature within a specific area below.

Users are encouraged to explore the assessment literature at all scales relevant to their area of interest. For instance, information relevant to individual areas within Colorado will be found on the Colorado page, and additional watershed-level comparisons will be found within the Interior West, western U.S., and national pages.

Click on the scale of interest for climate change vulnerability assessments and related literature:

Global National Western U.S.


Mountain Region

Northwest Region

Southwest Region





Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming


New Mexico

Oregon and Washington


Project Contact: 

Funding Contributors:
Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative