PRBO Conservation Science
Quarterly Journal of PRBO Conservation Science, Number 156, Spring 2009: Ecological Consequences of Climate Change


Providing Information and Leadership in a Rapidly Changing World

PRBO's New Climate Change Initiative

John Wiens and Mark Herzog

CEO's Column
Fingerprints of Climate Change
Projecting Birds' Future
Song Sparrows and Climate
PRBO's Climate Change Initiative
Climate Modeling
Planned Giving
Focus on a Home Patch
PRBO Highlights

The list of California bird species of special conservation concern, which now includes the Elegant Tern, could change in light of the risks from climate change. Photo by Tom Grey.
In the future, the impacts of climate change will intersect with other stressors, including increased urban development and changes in land and water use, to create a "perfect storm" of environmental change. Protecting California's biodiversity from this approaching storm requires that we anticipate the impacts of climate change and factor this knowledge into our conservation actions.

Addressing this challenge, PRBO has implemented a new Climate Change Initiative, to coordinate our research on the responses of birds and ecosystems to climate change, and to apply this work to conservation, management, and policy.

Over the next five years, we will continue and enhance scientific efforts to document and project the impacts of climate change on bird populations. The Initiative also increases the emphasis on disseminating, to a diverse audience, PRBO's information about climate change impacts on California birds and ecosystems. An overview of our "future planning tools" listed below can also be found at

New priority projects include:

---A Conservation Plan for California birds that addresses climate change impacts. Since 1992, PRBO has worked with California Partners in Flight (CalPIF) to produce habitat-based Bird Conservation Plans for every major habitat in the state. Now, in collaboration with partner organizations, we are working to prepare a CalPIF Climate Change Bird Conservation Plan, to infuse scientifically sound, climate-related planning into bird conservation.

---Next steps for Bird Species of Special Concern—identifying birds threatened by climate change. In 2008, PRBO and the California Department of Fish and Game finished updating the state's list of at-risk bird species (Observer 152, Spring 2008), but this ranking did not include the threat of climate change. Incorporating climate change into this risk assessment will provide managers with insight about where proactive efforts will be critical for addressing future conservation challenges.

---Contributions to "climate change adaptation"—the process that resource managers are using to incorporate projected impacts of climate change into their management plans. To identify solutions that managers need, PRBO will prepare targeted briefing papers and technical reports on potential impacts of climate change, drawing on our long-term data on bird populations and our modeling of future impacts.

PRBO's Climate Change Initiative provides a framework for conservation action across all components of our work. We will infuse climate-change science into everything PRBO does, and will provide information and leadership to others concerned about the future of conservation in a rapidly changing world.

To learn more on PRBO's website, please visit

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