Wildlife and Climate Change


Learn how WWF and partners are helping communities adapt to changing rainfall patterns and minimizing encroachment on critical mountain gorilla habitat.

Changes in climate and extreme weather events have already begun to affect biodiversity across the globe. And climate change also worsens other threats like habitat destruction, overexploitation, and disease.

From the shrinking habitat of the polar bear to increased water scarcity driving human-wildlife conflict, these changes will become more pronounced in years to come.

WWF is working to better understand how a changing climate impacts wildlife, and developing and implementing adaptation solutions. We are assessing our priority species to determine traits that make them resilient or vulnerable to changes in climate, crowdsourcing data on climate impacts, and funding projects through our Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund.

How WWF is helping threatened species adapt to climate change

Climate change-related threats to biodiversity are happening now. As habitats change, extreme weather events increase, and temperatures rise, we need new tools to help biodiversity adapt.
Declining species

Why It Matters

  • Range Shifts

    Climate is the most important predictor of butterfly species distribution. Butterflies have been documented shifting their range toward the poles and to higher altitudes.

  • Changing Food and Water Availability

    African elephants need up to 300 liters of water a day, just for drinking. As rainfall patterns change, humans and wildlife are competing for diminishing sources of water.

  • Increase in Pests and Disease

    As winters get warmer and shorter, moose populations in the northern US are declining due to tick infestations.

  • Changes in the Timing of Life Cycle Events

    Responding to warmer spring temperatures, plants are flowering earlier than they used to, resulting in a mismatch between peak plant growth and the animals that depend on them.

  • Coral Bleaching

    Oceans have absorbed much of the planet’s warming since the Industrial Revolution. Warming oceans are causing corals to expel the algae living in their tissues and turn white—a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. Over time, the corals can die off and no longer offer a healthy ocean habitat for the species that rely on them for feeding and protection.

What WWF Is Doing

visiting a watering hole in Thailand

WWF's Nikhil Advani and Wayuphong Jitvijak, and a park ranger in Thailand's Kui Buri National Park, where we are working to secure freshwater for elephants and other wildlife.

Species Assessment Tool

Researchers and conservation practitioners can use this tool to assess a species’ vulnerability to climate change. They are encouraged to share their results with WWF’s ongoing project.

polar bear

WWF Climate Crowd

WWF Climate Crowd is a new initiative to crowd source information on how rural communities are responding to changes in weather and climate, and how their responses are impacting biodiversity. We are partnering with other organizations to collect this data, find and implement ways to better help communities adapt, and alter our conservation strategies in light of the information we gather.

Learning Resources

Built around WWF's wildlife and climate change work, we have developed additional learning resources designed for educators teaching advanced high school and college students.

Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund

WWF’s “Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund” supports the testing of new ideas through on the ground projects which have potential to reduce the vulnerability of species to changes in climate. Success and lessons learned from these pilot projects will provide useful guidance that move conservation beyond business as usual approaches and rapidly scale promising efforts to help wildlife endure under conditions of rapid change. Learn more about this and the projects we've funded.