Climate Change & Species Projects & Initiatives

A butterfly

Species Level Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments

General Circulation Models (GCMs) predict that climate change will affect different areas of the world to different degrees. It is also widely recognized that not all species will respond in the same way, even to similar levels of climatic change. A species’ individual susceptibility to climate change depends on a variety of biological traits, including its life history, ecology, behaviour, physiology and genetic makeup. The species that are most at risk from climate change driven extinction are those which not only have a high susceptibility to climate changes and a low capacity to adapt but which also have distribution ranges in areas that will experience large climatic changes.


Based on information from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, as well as on newly collected data, IUCN and our partners have gathered information on the world’s birds (9,856 species), amphibians (6,222 species) and reef-building corals (799 species). Preliminary analyses of life history and ecological traits of these groups suggest that up to 35% of birds, 52% of amphibians and 71% of reef-building corals have traits that are likely to make them particularly susceptible to climate change.


IUCN plans to use the results of species level climate change vulnerability assessments to complement the current IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. In the medium term, and in combination with climate change spatial models, project results will be used to strengthen the power of the IUCN Red List to detect the threat of climate change to global species. By identifying the species that are most vulnerable to climate change before they are severely impacted, we hope to contribute a practical new conservation tool to help prevent extinctions.

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