How is the Land Trust Community Adapting to Address Climate Change Impacts?

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.

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Adaptation focuses on reducing vulnerabilities to impacts while mitigation aims to address the cause of global change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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” solution, but there are similarities in approaches across regions and sectors. Sharing best practices, learning by doing, and pursuing collaborative approaches can help ensure progress.

Numerous land trusts have already incorporated elements of climate adaptation planning into their management strategies. 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.

While there are many approaches to adaptive management, this process can be broken into six general steps:

  1. Assess the current conditions; identify any problems; determine goals.
  2. Design a management plan that incorporates these goals.
  3. Implement the management plan.
  4. Monitor the impact(s) of the management plan.
  5. Evaluate the results of the monitoring process.
  6. Modify the plan as needed to respond to changing conditions, as identified through the monitoring and evaluation process.

Adaptive management is a cyclical process, running continuously through these steps. The first two steps involve establishing goals for the management process, while steps three through five represent the actual implementation and evaluation of the process. In practice, many adaptive management plans run through steps 3-6 several times before returning to steps 1 and 2, which may involve a reassessment of the entire management plan, including target goals. It is important to evaluate results and modify management strategies as needed to respond to changing conditions.

The Alliance’s collection of case studies of climate change adaptation demonstrates that 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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