Adaptive Capacity

Our ability to address knowledge gaps in climate change responses is time critical. Traditional experimental approaches to investigating climate change responses, including assessments of phenotypic plasticity, may be prohibitively slow and costly especially when applied at community scales. Thus, we need to supplement these classical research approaches with alternative tools such as species vulnerability assessments or frameworks.

Adaptive capacity, which reflects the intrinsic capacity of a species to cope or adjust to climate change, remains an elusive concept within vulnerability assessments, possibly due to confusion around what exactly it is, and how to assess it. Adaptive capacity is generally accepted to be a function of life-history traits, genetic diversity and phenotypic plasticity.

I am involved in three large-scale collaborative projects;

1 – Developing an attribute based framework which will provide guidance on how to evaluate a species’ adaptive capacity across a suite of species ranging in life histories. We aim for this tool to provide a clarified pathway for incorporating adaptive capacity into existing management practices.

This was published at Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment in 2020

2 & 3 – Assessing the adaptive capacity of the flora and fauna of Australian mountain regions, using a structured expert elicitation process. Here, we address fundamental questions about the quantification of adaptive capacity (including potential for phenotypic plasticity) of an organism and its functional importance (the relative contribution of an organism within a system), with direct practical application to climate-ready management of the communities within Australia’s iconic high mountain regions.

This has been submitted to Conservatioin Biology in 2020