Assessing climate change vulnerability for species

Some like it hot – and some not! Broadening the coverage of climate change vulnerability assessments across species and ecosystems

Komodo dragon, ZSL
 Climate change is rapidly impacting biodiversity all over the world, but how can we determine which species require help to adapt to climate change and which don’t? ZSL is working in collaboration with the IUCN and other partner organisations to effectively assess climate change vulnerability of species across taxonomic and functional groups, from reptiles and crayfish to migratory species. We are working to improve on current protocols for climate change vulnerability assessments and to integrate various modelling and trait-based approaches to derive a holistic view of climate change threat. 

Why we are there

Development of assessment approaches has a long-standing history at the Institute of Zoology – from developing extinction risk assessments via IUCN Red List Criteria to sampled approaches for biodiversity assessments, we have built not just the technical knowledge but vast collaborator networks to carry out species assessments across taxonomic groups and within the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environment. We have previously developed qualitative assessments of climate change vulnerability for international policy instruments such as the Convention on Migratory Species to assess climate change impacts for a selection of priority species which are on the transboundary move, and are now working to translate this into a quantitative approach enlisting protocols on species distribution modelling and trait-based vulnerability approaches such as those advocated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 


Our work is expected to provide an insight into climate change vulnerability of a variety of species groups. So far, we have focussed on reptiles and freshwater crayfish (with collaborators at the University of Melbourne, Australia). Assessment of climate change vulnerability of the CMS Appendix I and II species will allow the CMS to make policy-relevant decisions to mitigate climate change effects on migratory species and enable species to adapt under projected climate change scenarios.

People involved



  • IUCN
  • Convention on Migratory Species
  • BTO

News & Blog links

Hot and bothered? Species vulnerability to climate change