In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Species Responses to Climate Change

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Historical Background
  • Exposure
  • Vulnerability and Conservation

Ecology Species Responses to Climate Change
Lauren B. Buckley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 February 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0080


Species are being affected by shifts in both the mean and the variability of climate elements, including temperature, precipitation, and their interaction. Species that are effectively able to respond to climate change do so by distributional or phenological shifts, acclimating, or adapting. Evidence of these responses to recent climate change is rapidly accumulating across taxa and regions, compelling research aimed at predicting future ecological and evolutionary responses. Prediction techniques center on using statistical or mechanistic approaches to estimate species niches and to examine shifts in these niches through climate change. These approaches are increasingly incorporating and extending existing physiological, population, and community ecological and evolutionary theory. Another forecasting approach entails identifying the traits of organisms that confer vulnerability to climate change and examining geographic and evolutionary patterns of these traits. The traits can be incorporated in vulnerability frameworks to inform conservation planning.

General Overviews

Most overviews of climate change focus either on the physical science or on conservation concerns, but two early-21st-century texts provide overviews of the emerging field of climate change biology. Newman, et al. 2011 focuses on the processes by which species respond to climate change, whereas Hannah 2010 offers a more applied perspective. The texts highlight how many traditional fields of biology need to be integrated to accurately forecast species’ responses. These fields include physiology, molecular biology, evolution, population and community ecology, ecosystem ecology, and biogeography. Post 2013 synthesizes the ecological consequences of climate change.

  • Hannah, L. 2010. Climate change biology. Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic.

    The text provides an accessible overview of methods for designing reserve networks aimed at minimizing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity.

  • Newman, J. A., M. Anand, H. A. L. Henry, S. Hunt, and Z. Gedalof. 2011. Climate change biology. Cambridge, MA: CABI.

    The text provides a more nuanced overview of the processes by which one can scale up from individual physiology to predict climate change impacts.

  • Post, E. 2013. Ecology of climate change: The importance of biotic interactions. Monographs in Population Biology 52. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Reviews past, present, and future ecological consequences of climate change, highlighting the role of biotic interactions.

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