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Vulnerabilities to climate change of Massachusetts animal species of greatest conservation need


Hector Galbraith

Toni Lyn Morelli

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:



Over the last decade, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has addressed the potential and actual impacts of climate change on state flora and fauna. The state's involvement began in 2007 when, led by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) and assisted by Manomet Center for Con-servation Research, it carried out one of the first habitat vulnerability assessments in North America (Manomet, 2010). The new methods and processes that resulted were later applied to vulnerability assessments in North America and elsewhere. In 2011, the state assisted the North-eastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (NEAFWA) in organizing and leading a pio-neering three-year, thirteen-state research effort to evaluate the vulnerabilities of fish and wild-life habitats to climate change in the northeast, from Maine south to West Virginia (NEAFWA, 2012). 

This focus on climate change vulnerabilities led to three important early realizations: (1) simply categorizing and scoring vulnerabilities might not lead to better conservation outcomes. It was vital to also understand why some resources were more or less vulnerable to climate change in order to identify potential intervention points on which conservation actions and strategies could be based. (2) simply producing research results was not enough; these results had to be cast as specific conservation actions. Moreover (3), these actions needed to be communicated in a useful form to conservation "actors", such as state agencies, land trusts, land managers, etc. These real-izations led to the next step on the Commonwealth's journey to effective conservation in an age of climate change - the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool (CAT).