Climate Change Exposure Across The Mountain Goat Range: Metrics for Vulnerability Assessment

Defense Date: 
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) are an alpine obligate species under threat from climate change because their habitats are highly influenced by weather conditions and seasonal variability. This research employed metrics of climate change exposure that measure the spatially explicit nature and magnitude of climate change relative to natural variability across the mountain goat range. Analysis of a multivariate climate change exposure index suggests that goat populations, particularly in the introduced southeastern areas of their range, will be more exposed to the effects of climate change than those in northern regions. Analysis of the magnitude and direction of change in specific climate variables implies that southeastern region goats will experience less severe winters, but warming temperature trends and decreases in precipitation may negatively affect forage availability throughout the growing season. These results illuminate the need for more ecologically specific metrics of climate exposure when estimating species potential vulnerability to climate change.