Infographic: How to Predict If a Species Is At Risk
Infographic: How to Predict If a Species Is At Risk

Infographic: How to Predict If a Species Is At Risk

To calculate the likelihood that organisms will be harmed by climate change, researchers estimate their exposure, sensitivity, and ability to adapt to new conditions.

Catherine Offord
Catherine Offord

Catherine is a senior editor at The Scientist.

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Jun 30, 2018

Researchers use various methods to estimate a species’ vulnerability to climate change. One popular class of assessments takes a trait-based approach, calculating organisms’ vulnerability on the basis of their exposure to climate change, their sensitivity to that change, and their potential to adapt to new conditions, termed their adaptive capacity.


A measure of how likely a species is to experience negative effects of climate change. Failing to account for traits that confer higher sensitivity can result in overoptimistic estimates of species’ vulnerability.

Adaptive Capacity

The potential for species and populations to temporarily escape the negative effects of climate change via natural selection or individual plasticity.


The magnitude and type of environmental changes that a population is likely to experience under future climate scenarios. Estimates of exposure are strongly affected by the choice of climate forecast model, and add a considerable source of uncertainty into climate change vulnerability assessments....

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