Paper: Choosing and using climate-change scenarios for ecological-impact assessments and conservation decisions

This article appeared in the December 2013 issue of the journal Conservation Biology and addresses some of the challenges related to choosing and using scenarios of climate change for ecosystem-based assessments. Lead author: Encyclopedia of Puget Sound climate change topic editor Amy Snover.


SNOVER, A. K., MANTUA, N. J., LITTELL, J. S., ALEXANDER, M. A., MCCLURE, M. M. and NYE, J. (2013), Choosing and Using Climate-Change Scenarios for Ecological-Impact Assessments and Conservation Decisions. Conservation Biology, 27: 1147–1157. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12163

From the Abstract

"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."

— Snover et al.

About the Author: 
AMY K. SNOVER 1; NATHAN J. MANTUA 1,2; JEREMY S. LITTELL 1,3; MICHAEL A. ALEXANDER 4; MICHELLE M. MCCLURE 5; JANET NYE 6: 1 Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Box 355674, Seattle, WA, U.S.A. 2 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Santa Cruz, CA, U.S.A. 3 Department of Interior Alaska Climate Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK, U.S.A. 4 NOAA, Earth System Research Laboratory, R/PSD1, Boulder, CO, U.S.A. 5 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Seattle, WA, U.S.A. 6 School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, U.S.A.