Earth Regions Most Vulnerable to Climate Change Revealed in New Road Map, Includes Asia, Europe, South America, Australia

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | September 17, 2013 11:34 AM EST

The map illustrates the global distribution of the climate stability/ecoregional intactness relationship. Ecoregions with both high climate stability and vegetation intactness are dark grey. Ecoregions with high climate stability but low levels of vegetation intactness are dark orange. Ecoregions with low climate stability but high vegetation intactness are dark green. Ecoregions that have both low climate stability and low levels of vegetation intactness are pale cream. (Credit: WCS)

A group of scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland and Stanford University have come out with a new roadmap identifying the areas or Earth regions that are most vulnerable and least vulnerable to climate change.

In a study that appeared on the online version of the journal Nature Climate Change, the regions identified as most vulnerable to climate change exposure were southern and southeastern Asia, western and central Europe, eastern South America and southern Australia.

"We need to realize that climate change is going to impact ecosystems both directly and indirectly in a variety of ways and we can't keep on assuming that all adaptation actions are suitable everywhere," Dr. James Watson, Director of WCS's Climate Change Program and lead author of the Nature study, said in a statement.

Although the world's governments surely will find and allocate resources to combat this growing weather menace, it is imperative that "we need to start to be clever in our investments in adaptation strategies around the world."

"The analysis and map in this study is a means of bringing clarity to complicated decisions on where limited resources will do the most good."

The map, according to the society, aim to help governments, environmental agencies and donors identify and locate key areas where to best invest in protected area establishment as well as restoration methods. It likewise enlists conservation activities in saving ecosystems that will help yield the biggest return on investment to both wildlife and people.

"Effective conservation strategies must anticipate not only how species and habitats will cope with future climate change, but how humans will respond to these challenges," Dr John Robinson, executive vice president for Conservation and Science, said.

"To that end, maintaining the integrity of the world's ecosystems will be the most important means of safeguarding the natural world and our own future."

The study said noted that ecosystems with highly intact vegetation and high relative climate stability are the best locations for future protected areas. "They have the best chance of retaining species."

Temperate rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.

Ecosystems with low levels of vegetation and high relative climate stability, however, merit habitat restoration efforts.

Ecosystems with low levels of vegetation intactness and low climate stability are the ones most at risk. They would require significant levels of investment to achieve conservation outcomes.

Some examples of ecosystems:

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