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Wildlife climate change vulnerability and adaptation

As climate change continues to influence ecosystems around the world, wildlife species will be under increasing pressure to adapt. Wildlife managers face the growing challenge of helping wildlife populations and ecosystems respond to climate change. Partners in the Great Lakes region are collaborating to provide tools and guidance to support wildlife managers in designing and implementing actions for climate change adaptation. 


Climate change can affect wildlife in a variety of ways, including both direct impacts like temperature-induced heat stress and indirect effects like shifting availability of food sources. Wildlife species may be more or less vulnerable to climate change depending on unique species traits, changes in habitat (food, water, and cover), and interactions with competitors and other stressors. The following resources are useful for considering future changes: 

Adaptation in Action

There is no single answer on how to best adapt to climate change, and wildlife managers need actionable information to manage wildlife populations and habitat. Regional partners are currently developing and testing a menu of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches designed specifically for wildlife management. Drawing from a large body of scientific literature and designed to be used with the Adaptation Workbook, this new resource will help wildlife managers understand and select from a wide variety of climate-informed actions.

The wildlife adaptation menu of strategies and approaches is an extensive collection of climate change adaptation actions for wildlife management, organized into tiers of general and more specific ideas. It is focused on terrestrial wildlife, including adaptation actions related to managing populations as well as habitats. Drawing from a large body of scientific literature, this new resource will help managers understand and select from a wide variety of climate-informed actions that support wildlife and habitat management. 

 Through training and technical assistance to natural resource professionals and land owners we have worked with practitioners to address wildlife concerns. This work with wildlife professionals includes topics such as:

  • Helping wildlife managers prioritize climate change risks related to their work. 
  • Developing climate-informed habitat management plans for federal, state, or tribal management areas.
  • Adjusting population recovery plans based on climate change projections.  


The Wildlife Adaptation Menu has been created by a core team of collaborators, including staff from the USGS Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, and USDA Forest Service.