skip to main content

Title: Climate vulnerability mapping: A systematic review and future prospects

Maps synthesizing climate, biophysical and socioeconomic data have become part of the standard tool‐kit for communicating the risks of climate change to society. Vulnerability maps are used to direct attention to geographic areas where impacts on society are expected to be greatest and that may therefore require adaptation interventions. Under the Green Climate Fund and other bilateral climate adaptation funding mechanisms, donors are investing billions of dollars of adaptation funds, often with guidance from modeling results, visualized and communicated through maps and spatial decision support tools. This paper presents the results of a systematic review of 84 studies that map social vulnerability to climate impacts. These assessments are compiled by interdisciplinary teams of researchers, span many regions, range in scale from local to global, and vary in terms of frameworks, data, methods, and thematic foci. The goal is to identify common approaches to mapping, evaluate their strengths and limitations, and offer recommendations and future directions for the field. The systematic review finds some convergence around common frameworks developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, frequent use of linear index aggregation, and common approaches to the selection and use of climate and socioeconomic data. Further, it identifies limitations such as a lack of future climate and socioeconomic projections in many studies, insufficient characterization of uncertainty, challenges in map validation, and insufficient engagement with policy audiences for those studies that purport to be policy relevant. Finally, it provides recommendations for addressing the identified shortcomings.

This article is categorized under:

Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Values‐Based Approach to Vulnerability and Adaptation

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
WIREs Climate Change
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Local adaptation is a fundamental phenomenon in evolutionary biology, with relevance to formation of ecotypes, and ultimately new species, and application to restoration and species’ response to climate change. Reciprocal transplant gardens, a common garden in which ecotypes are planted among home and away habitats, are the gold standard to detect local adaptation in populations.

    This review focuses on reciprocal transplant gardens to detect local adaptation, especially in grassland species beginning with early seminal studies of grass ecotypes. Fast forward more than half a century, reciprocal gardens have moved into the genomic era, in which the genetic underpinnings of ecotypic variation can now be uncovered. Opportunities to combine genomic and reciprocal garden approaches offer great potential to shed light on genetic and environmental control of phenotypic variation. Our decadal study of adaptation in a dominant grass across the precipitation gradient of the US Great Plains combined genomic approaches and realistic community settings to shed light on controls over phenotype.

    Common gardens are not without limitations and challenges. A survey of recent studies indicated the modal study uses a tree species, three source sites and one growing site, focuses on one species growing in a monoculture, lasts 3 years, and does not use other experimental manipulations and rarely employs population genetic tools. Reciprocal transplant gardens are even more uncommon, accounting for only 39% of the studies in the literature survey with the rest occurring at a single common site. Reciprocal transplant gardens offer powerful windows into local adaptation when (a) placed across wide environmental gradients to encompass the species’ range; (b) conducted across timespans adequate for detecting responses; (c) employing selection studies among competing ecotypes in community settings and (d) combined with measurements of form and function which ultimately determine success in home and away environments.

    Synthesis. Reciprocal transplant gardens have been one of the foundations in evolutionary biology for the study of adaptation for the last century, and even longer in Europe. Moving forward, reciprocal gardens of foundational non‐model species, combined with genomic analyses and incorporation of biotic factors, have the potential to further revolutionize evolutionary biology. These field experiments will help to predict and model response to climate change and inform restoration practices.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Together climate and land‐use change play a crucial role in determining species distribution and abundance, but measuring the simultaneous impacts of these processes on current and future population trajectories is challenging due to time lags, interactive effects and data limitations. Most approaches that relate multiple global change drivers to population changes have been based on occurrence or count data alone.

    We leveraged three long‐term (1995–2019) datasets to develop a coupled integrated population model‐Bayesian population viability analysis (IPM‐BPVA) to project future survival and reproductive success for common loonsGavia immerin northern Wisconsin, USA, by explicitly linking vital rates to changes in climate and land use.

    The winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a broad‐scale climate index, immediately preceding the breeding season and annual changes in developed land cover within breeding areas both had strongly negative influences on adult survival. Local summer rainfall was negatively related to fecundity, though this relationship was mediated by a lagged interaction with the winter NAO, suggesting a compensatory population‐level response to climate variability.

    We compared population viability under 12 future scenarios of annual land‐use change, precipitation and NAO conditions. Under all scenarios, the loon population was expected to decline, yet the steepest declines were projected under positive NAO trends, as anticipated with ongoing climate change. Thus, loons breeding in the northern United States are likely to remain affected by climatic processes occurring thousands of miles away in the North Atlantic during the non‐breeding period of the annual cycle.

    Our results reveal that climate and land‐use changes are differentially contributing to loon population declines along the southern edge of their breeding range and will continue to do so despite natural compensatory responses. We also demonstrate that concurrent analysis of multiple data types facilitates deeper understanding of the ecological implications of anthropogenic‐induced change occurring at multiple spatial scales. Our modelling approach can be used to project demographic responses of populations to varying environmental conditions while accounting for multiple sources of uncertainty, an increasingly pressing need in the face of unprecedented global change.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Predicting where crop pests and diseases can occur, both now and in the future under different climate change scenarios, is a major challenge for crop management. One solution is to estimate the fundamental thermal niche of the pest/disease to indicate where establishment is possible. Here, we develop methods for estimating and displaying the fundamental thermal niche of pests and pathogens and apply these methods to Huanglongbing (HLB), a vector‐borne disease that is currently threatening the citrus industry worldwide.

    We derive a suitability metric based on a mathematical model of HLB transmission between tree hosts and its vectorDiaphorina citri, and incorporate the effect of temperature on vector traits using data from laboratory experiments performed at different temperatures. We validate the model using data on the historical range of HLB.

    Our model predicts that transmission of HLB is possible between 16 and 33°C with peak transmission at ~25°C. The greatest uncertainty in our suitability metric is associated with the mortality of the vectors at peak transmission, and fecundity at the edges of the thermal range, indicating that these parameters need further experimental work.

    We produce global thermal niche maps by plotting how many months each location is suitable for establishment of the pest/disease. This analysis reveals that the highest suitability for HLB occurs near the equator in large citrus‐producing regions, such as Brazil and South‐East Asia. Within the Northern Hemisphere, the Iberian peninsula and California are HLB suitable for up to 7 months of the year and are free of HLB currently.

    Policy implications. We create a thermal niche map which indicates the places at greatest risk of establishment should a crop disease or pest enter these regions. This indicates where surveillance should be focused to prevent establishment. Our mechanistic method can be used to predict new areas for Huanglongbing transmission under different climate change scenarios and is easily adapted to other vector‐borne diseases and crop pests.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Accurately quantifying rates and patterns of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) in terrestrial ecosystems is essential to characterize ecological and biogeochemical interactions, identify mechanistic controls, improve BNF representation in conceptual and numerical modelling, and forecast nitrogen limitation constraints on future carbon (C) cycling.

    While many resources address the technical advantages and limitations of different methods for measuring BNF, less systematic consideration has been given to the broader decisions involved in planning studies, interpreting data, and extrapolating results. Here, we present a conceptual and practical road map to study design, study execution, data analysis and scaling, outlining key considerations at each step.

    We address issues including defining N‐fixing niches of interest, identifying important sources of temporal and spatial heterogeneity, designing a sampling scheme (including method selection, measurement conditions, replication, and consideration of hotspots and hot moments), and approaches to analysing, scaling and reporting BNF. We also review the comparability of estimates derived using different approaches in the literature, and provide sample R code for simulating symbiotic BNF data frames and upscaling.

    Improving and standardizing study design at each of these stages will improve the accuracy and interpretability of data, define limits of extrapolation, and facilitate broader use of BNF data for downstream applications. We highlight aspects—such as quantifying scales of heterogeneity, statistical approaches for dealing with non‐normality, and consideration of rates versus ecological significance—that are ripe for further development.

    more » « less
  5. Earth system models (ESMs) are the primary tool used to understand and project changes to the climate system. ESM projections underpin analyses of human dimensions of the climate issue, yet little is known about how ESMs are used in human dimensions research. Such foundational information is necessary for future critical assessments of ESMs. We review applications of a leading ESM, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Earth System Model (CESM), to human dimensions topics since 2004. We find that this research has grown substantially over this period, twice as fast as CESM research overall. Although many studies have primarily addressed long‐term impacts on physical systems with societal relevance, applications to managed, societal, and ecological systems have grown quickly and now make up more than half of CESM human dimensions work. CESM applications focused nearly equally on global and regional analyses, most often using multimodel ensembles, although the use of single simulations remains prevalent. Downscaling and bias correction of output was infrequent and most common for regional studies. U.S.‐based, university‐affiliated authors primarily drove human dimensions work using CESM, with only 12% of authors based at NCAR. Our findings identify important questions that warrant further investigation, such as reasons for the infrequent use of downscaling and bias correction techniques; motivations to continue to use older model versions after newer model versions have been released; and model development needs for improved human dimensions applications. Additionally, our synthesis provides a baseline and framework that enables continued tracking of CESM and other ESMs.

    This article is categorized under:

    Assessing Impacts of Climate Change > Evaluating Future Impacts of Climate Change

    more » « less