Matthew Lettrich (1), Roger Griffis (2)
1 ECS Federal, Inc. in Support of NOAA Fisheries, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, firstname.lastname@example.org
2 NOAA Fisheries, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, email@example.com
Climate change is expected to influence the distribution and viability of many species in marine and coastal ecosystems. These changes have significant implications for conservation of protected species – those already at high risk due to a variety of stressors. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is developing a methodology for assessing the vulnerability of marine protected species to provide decision-makers with information on what species may be most vulnerable and why, to help guide science and management actions. The Protected Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment (PSCVA) methodology is currently under-development. The methodology focuses on marine mammals and sea turtles, two groups that are relatively under-represented in the climate vulnerability arena. This presentation describes the development process and draft methodology. We began development by assessing decision-makers’ information needs related to climate vulnerability. There was high demand for information on vulnerability to changes in distribution, abundance, and phenology. We then drafted an initial framework based on several existing climate change vulnerability assessments for marine species. The draft framework uses empirical data and expert judgement to assess exposure to climate change and sensitivity to climate-driven shifts in distribution, abundance, and phenology of the target taxa. The methodology combines exposure and sensitivity scores to produce relative vulnerability scores for each species, provides information on what attributes contribute most significantly to the species vulnerability, and identifies key information gaps. Assessments will be run for marine mammals and sea turtles separately. The draft PSCVA framework will undergo pilot testing prior to completion in 2016.