The Rocky Mountain Research Station recently published a general technical report addressing climate change vulnerability in the Rocky Mountain Region. This report, entitled Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems in the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, focuses on six ecosystems. Scientists evaluated each ecosystem based on several factors, including their current extent, exposure to climate change, sensitivity and adaptability to climate change, the ability of the ecosystem to shift geographically, and non-climate stressors such as recreational use, air pollution and infrastructure development.
Of the six categories, all were seen as vulnerable to climate change, although the level of vulnerability varied. The three aquatic systems evaluated (Great Plains streams and riparian areas; aquatic, riparian and wetland ecosystems in glaciated valleys, and low-gradient mountain stream reaches) were rated as the most vulnerable: “highly vulnerable.” One terrestrial ecosystem (alpine turf and dwarf-shrublands) was also rated as having high vulnerability to climate change. Finally, two ecosystems were classified as moderately vulnerable to climate change (ponderosa pine woodlands and savannas and subalpine spruce-fir forests). The report, which is summarized in this companion document, provides detailed insights on vulnerability to climate change along with interactions with non-climate stressors for each ecosystem type.