A special issue of the journal Conservation Biology includes a paper written by a team of authors from the Climate Impacts Group, USGS, NOAA, and Stony Brook University on choosing and using climate change scenarios for ecological impacts assessments and conservation decisions. Published in December, the paper’s guidelines are relevant to a diverse range of resource managers.

Amy Snover, assistant dean of applied research at the College of the Environment and director of the Climate Impacts Group, is the lead author on the paper entitled Choosing and Using Climate-Change Scenarios for Ecological-Impact Assessments and Conservation Decisions.  It addresses common misperceptions about the utility of climate scenarios for biological assessments and decision-making, and presents defensible strategies for choosing and using climate-change scenarios that recognize uncertainty.

The Conservation Biology special issue focuses on how to incorporate considerations of a changing climate into aquatic species management under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Other papers in the special issue include a policy examination of the ESA in light of significant ecosystem changes brought by climate change, five case studies on climate change and aquatic species management, and a summary paper. The special issue summarizes the results of the NOAA Climate Change and ESA Project, which had the goal of helping decision makers understand the differences between varying scientific approaches related to climate change and improving their ability to implement the ESA in a changing world.

Read more about this paper and the others published in the special issue on the Conservation Biology website or on NOAA’s website.  To request a copy of Choosing and Using Climate-Change Scenarios for Ecological-Impact Assessments and Conservation Decisions, please email cig@uw.edu. The abstract for the paper is provided below.


Abstract for the “Choosing and Using” paper (Snover et al. 2013):

Increased concern over climate change is demonstrated by the many efforts to assess climate effects and develop adaptation strategies. Scientists, resource managers, and decision makers are increasingly expected to use climate information, but they struggle with its uncertainty. With the current proliferation of climate simulations and downscaling methods, scientifically credible strategies for selecting a subset for analysis and decision making are needed. Drawing on a rich literature in climate science and impact assessment and on experience working with natural resource scientists and decision makers, we devised guidelines for choosing climate-change scenarios for ecological impact assessment that recognize irreducible uncertainty in climate projections and address common misconceptions about this uncertainty. This approach involves identifying primary local climate drivers by climate sensitivity of the biological system of interest; determining appropriate sources of information for future changes in those drivers; considering how well processes controlling local climate are spatially resolved; and selecting scenarios based on considering observed emission trends, relative importance of natural climate variability, and risk tolerance and time horizon of the associated decision. The most appropriate scenarios for a particular analysis will not necessarily be the most appropriate for another due to differences in local climate drivers, biophysical linkages to climate, decision characteristics, and how well a model simulates the climate parameters and processes of interest. Given these complexities, we recommend interaction among climate scientists, natural and physical scientists, and decision makers throughout the process of choosing and using climate-change scenarios for ecological impact assessment.


A Leaf
Jon Sullivan