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SAVS: A System for Assessing Vulnerability of Species to Climate Change

Abstract

The SAVS uses an online questionnaire with 22 criteria to predict vulnerability or population response of species to provide a framework for assessing vulnerability to future climate change

Purpose

The System for Assessing Vulnerability of Species (SAVS) is a simple and flexible tool designed for managers to assess the relative risk of individual species to population declines in response to projected changes in climate and related phenomena. The SAVS uses an online questionnaire with 22 criteria to predict vulnerability or population response of species and to provide a framework for assessing vulnerability to future climate change.

Overview and Applicability

Photo of a mountain quail in CaliforniaClimate change impacts are increasingly apparent among species and ecosystems. To preserve habitats and conserve biodiversity, managers need tools which effectively identify the major consequences of climate change for persistence and management of species and ecosystems.

The Rocky Mountain Research Station developed SAVS to quantify the relative impact of expected climate change effects on terrestrial vertebrate species. The SAVS uses 22 criteria related to expected response or vulnerability of species in a questionnaire to provide a framework for assessing vulnerability to climate change. The questionnaire is completed using information gathered from published materials, personal knowledge, or expert consultation. The SAVS Climate Change Tool focuses solely on the effects of climate change for terrestrial vertebrate species. This tool aids managers by identifying specific traits and issues related to individual species vulnerabilities. Scores generated by completing a questionnaire are meant to be used to inform management planning. Information regarding specific criteria for each question are provided as information pop-ups with the scoring template.

A comprehensive discussion of the development and application of this tool will be available from a RMRS General Technical Report, A System for Assessing Vulnerability of Species (SAVS) to Climate Change (in press). Users may also find it helpful to review assessments conducted for species in New Mexico (Friggens et al. 2013) and Arizona (Coe et al. 2012) and legacy project briefs for Fort Huachuca, AZ and Barry M Goldwater Range, AZ. We assume users will familiarize themselves with these documents before proceeding with the scoring process.

Using the SAVS Climate Change Tool

Twenty-two predictive criteria form the basis of an easily completed questionnaire organized into four categories; habitat, physiology, phenology, and biotic interactions. Each predictive criterion corresponds to a single question and represents vulnerability or resiliency. Scores are calculated for overall vulnerability and for each of the categories. There are three steps to the scoring process:

1) Data gathering: Climate projections for the target region (i.e., exposure) are used to determine appropriate response selections for each question and are obtained from published studies, reports, or other analyses (see resources below). Species data is also needed to complete the questionnaire. Please refer to the Guidelines (in press) for conducting a species assessment.

2) Scoring: Select the appropriate response according to data gathered regarding species biology and future expected conditions. Indicate level of uncertainty for each question.

3) Calculate and apply scores: This tool generates an overall score that scales from -20 (most resilient) to +20 (most vulnerable) and scores for each category that scale from -5 to +5. Overall scores can be used to identify highly vulnerable/resilient species or to rank species according to their vulnerabilities. 

Categorical scores provide information on where species are most sensitive to future climate conditions or changes. In addition, scores may be used to identify critical management actions or areas of need for the preservation of species under changing scenarios. Uncertainty is represented as the percentage of questions with inadequate or conflicting information and is calculated to correspond with overall and categorical vulnerability scores. Uncertainty must be taken under consideration when evaluating vulnerability scores. Species with high uncertainty values may be candidates for further monitoring or research efforts.

Inputs

Climate projections for the target region (i.e., exposure) are used to determine appropriate response selections for each question and are obtained from published studies, reports, or other analyses. Species data is also needed to complete the questionnaire.

Outputs

  • Scores can be used to rank species by vulnerability and identify those which may require attention to prevent declines. Overall scores scale from -20 (most resilient) to +20 (most vulnerable).

  • Scores can help identify areas and issues of greatest vulnerability for single species and inform the development of effective management strategies

  • Scores may also be used to identify groups of species with similar vulnerabilities that may benefit from the same management action

  • Climate change vulnerability scores may be added to current species assessments or management plans to improve identification of conservation targets

  • Scores and scoring processes may be used to initiate dialogue on climate change challenges and solutions for species' management

Web-based tools for creating climate projections

Web-based tools for species data

Restrictions and Limitations

The effectiveness of this scoring method and the applicability of the information derived from this process depend upon the quality of data used to conduct the scoring process. Scoring may require substantial amount of input data both regarding species vulnerability and future climate scenarios. The scoring tool was designed to be applied at the scale of a management unit and to accommodate a single climate zone (i.e., a uniform set of climate projections). Additional regional climate information needs to be integrated into the scoring system for migratory species that spend a significant portion of their lives outside the targeted region.

Scores are not weighed by the relative influence of various criteria and it is up to the user to determine the relative importance of individual criterion to species persistence. Scores, scaled from -20 to +20, represent relative vulnerability and are not an absolute or linear measure of vulnerability.

In addition, the quality and quantity of information varies for individual species. An uncertainty score is included to account for this variation. Uncertainty also exists in predictions for future climates, which can influence the outcome of the scoring process.

Citation

Finch, Deborah. SAVS: A System for Assessing Vulnerability of Species to Climate Change. Available online at https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/grassland-shrubland-desert/products/species-vulnerability/savs-climate-change-tool/.



Research Topics: 
Climate Change
National Strategic Program Areas: 
Wildland Fire and Fuels
National Priority Research Areas: 
Climate Change
RMRS Science Program Areas: 
Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
RMRS Strategic Priorities: 
Disturbance Ecology; Species Endangerment
Geography: 
National