Metrics that synthesize the complex effects of climate change are essential tools for mapping future threats to biodiversity and predicting which species are likely to adapt in place to new climatic conditions, disperse and establish in areas with newly suitable climate, or face the prospect of extirpation. The most commonly used of such metrics is the velocity of climate change, which estimates the speed at which species must migrate over the earth’s surface to maintain constant climatic conditions.

Systematic conservation planning efforts typically focus on protecting current patterns of biodiversity. Climate change is poised to shift species distributions, reshuffle communities, and alter ecosystem functioning. In such a dynamic environment, lands selected to protect today's biodiversity may fail to do so in the future. One proposed approach to designing reserve networks that are robust to climate change involves protecting the diversity of abiotic conditions that in part determine species distributions and ecological processes.