Pilot States

Assessing Vulnerability to Climate Change


Photo of Seneca Lake in Burdett, New York

To incorporate the impacts of climate change into State Wildlife Action Plans, NWF is collaborating with New York, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington to conduct climate change vulnerability assessments

Vulnerability assessments show how climate change will affect wildlife and habitat in each state. 

After they are completed, states can use assessment information to update their State Wildlife Action Plans and better protect wildlife and habitat from the impacts of climate change.

Learn about assessments in: New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington

New York

In New York, NWF is working with Dr. Hector Galbraith of Ecosolutions, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and other interested stakeholders to conduct a habitat vulnerability assessment.  The assessment will examine the vulnerability of 6-10 wildlife habitats in both coastal and non-coastal regions to climate change and will also include an analysis of uncertainty.  When it is completed, the New York Department of Conservation will be able to use the assessment to make effective resource management decisions in the face of climate change. 


The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and National Wildlife Federation are working with Tetra Tech to develop a climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategy for wildlife and wildlife habitat in the state.  Together we will:

  • Assess the vulnerability of Vermont wildlife, fisheries, forestry and water resources to climate change using information compiled in other assessments from across the northeast region
  • Identify information gaps in compiled data to determine additional research needed in a Vermont specific vulnerability assessment.
  • Create a Vermont climate adaptation strategy with priority actions to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat from the negative effects of climate change.
  • Engage stakeholders in this work.
beach in Virginia


As a follow-up to two workshops on climate change and the Virginia State Wildlife Action Plan, NWF and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) are working with the Conservation Management Institute (CMI) at Virginia Tech University on a climate change vulnerability assessment. The assessment focuses on 20 "species of greatest conservation need" from Virginia’s Wildlife Action Plan, including some of the plants these species depend upon. The vulnerability assessment will produce spatially explicit climate change projections and look at how these changes may affect wildlife and habitat in Virginia. The assessment will include projected changes for several variables (e.g., average temperature, average precipitation, extreme high heat days, humidity, and soil moisture) and is expected to be complete by summer 2012.

When the assessment is done, DGIF, NWF and our affiliate the Virginia Conservation Network will host workshops to share the results and garner feedback from stakeholders in Virginia.  Maps and other information from the vulnerability assessment and workshops will be used to develop a comprehensive report on assessment results and recommended management options.

Puget Sound


NWF is leading efforts to assess how key habitats in Washington will be affected by climate change. In collaboration with the Pacific Northwest Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, NWF has assembled scientific findings on climate impacts to ecosystems throughout the state and is convening experts to assess sensitivity to these impacts.

This project is part of a major effort to evaluate the relative vulnerability to climate change of the species and ecological systems of the Pacific Northwest. The project will rank the sensitivity of approximately 50 ecological systems to climate change and describe the factors (e.g.  changes in fire regimes, hydrology, or insect outbreaks) that make each system sensitive.  Additionally, the project will describe and rank the sensitivity of dominant species in each system.  When complete, the results will enable the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to integrate climate change into its State Wildlife Action Plan, as well as help other organizations in the Pacific Northwest develop climate change adaptation policy and management strategies.

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