Climates Past, Present, and Yet-to-Come Shape Climate Change Vulnerabilities

Trends Ecol Evol. 2017 Oct;32(10):786-800. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.07.012. Epub 2017 Aug 24.


Climate change is altering life at multiple scales, from genes to ecosystems. Predicting the vulnerability of populations to climate change is crucial to mitigate negative impacts. We suggest that regional patterns of spatial and temporal climatic variation scaled to the traits of an organism can predict where and why populations are most vulnerable to climate change. Specifically, historical climatic variation affects the sensitivity and response capacity of populations to climate change by shaping traits and the genetic variation in those traits. Present and future climatic variation can affect both climate change exposure and population responses. We provide seven predictions for how climatic variation might affect the vulnerability of populations to climate change and suggest key directions for future research.

Keywords: adaptive capacity; climate change; climatic variation; sensitivity; spatial variation; temporal variation.

MeSH terms

  • Climate
  • Climate Change*
  • Ecosystem
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Phenotype