Preparing for climate change — also known as climate change adaptation — is about reducing the risk of climate change impacts to people, places and resources. Efforts are also underway to decrease or mitigate the rate of greenhouse gas emissions into to the atmosphere. Scientists have demonstrated that based on current and projected concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, climate change impacts are already occurring and will likely increase, even with drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades.

Adaptation refers to reducing the vulnerability of social and biological systems to the impacts of climate change.  Adaptation can take place at many levels. There is no “one-size fits all,” but there are similarities in approaches across regions and sectors. Sharing best practices, learning by doing, and pursuing collaborative approaches can help ensure progress.

In general, a climate change adaptation plan identifies and assesses impacts that are likely to affect the planning area, develops goals and actions to best minimize these impacts, and establishes a process to implement those actions. Climate change adaptation actions can often fulfill other management goals, such as sustainable development and risk reduction, and can therefore be incorporated into existing decision-making processes.

For land trusts, this process often involves adaptive management planning. While there are many approaches to adaptive management, general steps often include:

  1. Assessing current conditions; identifying issues; determining goals.
  2. Designing a management plan / adaptation strategies that incorporate these goals.
  3. Implementing the management plan.
  4. Monitoring the impact(s) of the management plan.
  5. Evaluating the results of the monitoring process.
  6. Modifying the plan as needed to respond to changing conditions, as identified through the monitoring and evaluation process – Communicate, Monitor, Review, and Revise.

The Alliance’s collection of case studies of climate change adaptation demonstrates that, while land trusts have been engaging in this planning process to varying degrees, these steps can guide conservation organizations to develop and implement more rigorous and robust adaptive management planning strategies.

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