Vulnerability Assessment

Ecosystems will be increasingly affected by a changing climate, and understanding the potential impacts is an important first step to sustaining healthy forests in the face of changing conditions. We develop vulnerability assessments in each of our project areas in order to provide high-quality information about future changes in climate and the potential effects on the forest ecosystems specific to that particular region. This information helps to identify the characteristics that put forest communities at greatest risk and can be used to inform natural resource management.

Several vulnerability assessments have been developed through the Climate Change Response Framework. Although each vulnerability assessment is tailored to meet the needs identified within each region, they are designed to share similarities in general format and content. Our vulnerability assessments:

  • Focus on forest ecosystems within a defined region
  • Address vulnerabilities of individual tree species and forest or natural community types within the region
  • Provide gridded historical and modeled climate change information
  • Employ at least two different forest impact models to project changes for tree species
  • Use panels of scientists and managers with local expertise to put scientific results in context


Ecoregional Assessments

Vulnerability assessments, which are published as US Forest Service General Technical Reports, have been published or are underway* for the following areas:

If you are interested in learning about any of these, please contact the Coordinator for the respective Framework Project.


What is Vulnerability?

Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. The identification of vulnerable species and ecosystems in the near term is a critical step in long-term planning. Some forests may exhibit substantial and long-term declines in vigor and productivity as a result of climatic changes; these forests may be considered vulnerable even if they show some resilience in community composition. Other forests are more clearly vulnerable as ecosystem function or community composition is severely altered. Vulnerability assessments recognize that a system's vulnerability is a function of its exposure to climate change, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.