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Analysis and Visualization of Climate Information to Support USFWS Species Status Assessments

Project Information

Principal Investigator: Kathie Dello, State Climate Office of North Carolina, North Carolina State University
Proposed Project Completion: September 2023
Implements Science Plan Theme: Impacts
Jennifer Costanza, North Carolina State University
Rebecca Ward, State Climate Office of North Carolina
Darrian Bertrand, State Climate Office of North Carolina
Corey Davis, State Climate Office of North Carolina
John McGuire, State Climate Office of North Carolina
Karen McNeal, Auburn University
Alexa McKerrow, USGS Core Science Systems
Jaime Collazo, USGS NC Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Adam Terando, USGS Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center


Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) must evaluate the status of at-risk plants and animals in the U.S. A Species Status Assessment (SSA) is a scientific assessment prepared for each at-risk species to help inform a range of management decisions under the Endangered Species Act. SSA’s are currently needed for more than 350 species, 250 of which are in the Southeast region alone. These species are threatened by several stressors including urbanization, loss of habitat, changes in streamflow and water quality, climate variability, and climate change. As part of the SSA process, teams must identify and assess risks to species or their habitat from changing climate, hydrology, and land use.

In partnership with scientists from the USFWS, this project will develop and test data products that will assist USFWS biologists in their efforts to incorporate climate information into SSAs, including how the climate factors and thresholds that most affect species vary year-to-year, how they are expected to change in the future, and the uncertainties associated with those changes. Researchers will also develop and test the efficacy of using a web-based collection of maps and data layers for interpreting climate vulnerability of wildlife and their habitats. Each map product will focus on the most relevant climate and ecology metrics that predict species viability for a location, and include explanatory and interpretive materials. Regular input from USFWS scientists will ensure that the information is accessible, useful, and usable. This web-based framework will help USFWS scientists in the Southeast U.S. obtain, understand, and apply the climate information they need, thus enhancing the accuracy, quality, and scientific rigor of SSAs.