Manage Wildlife for Climate Change Resilience

Altered climate conditions have already been linked to changes in wildlife distribution, reproduction and behavior. As temperatures continue to warm and precipitation patterns shift, these fluctuations will continue. Enhancing connectivity and “conserving the stage” are critical conservation objectives that can help species adapt to changing conditions.

What Does Climate Change Mean for Wildlife?

The potential impacts to wildlife vary by species, preferred habitat, and much more, and may include:

  • Species migration to more northerly or higher elevation habitats.
  • More severe weather — storms, floods, droughts, etc — threaten the ability of wildlife species to reproduce, find cover, forage or hunt, migrate and survive.
  • Increased health risks from disease, pests and new competitors or predators.
  • Loss of habitat due to rising sea levels, drought, rising temperatures, wildfire and other events.
  • Temporal or geographic disconnect between species that previously relied upon one another, such as pollinators and flowers.
  • In general, because future climate changes are projected to exceed those experienced in the recent past, projected biological impacts tend to be of greater magnitude than recent observed changes.
Visit the National Climate Assessment to learn more about ecological responses to climate change.


How Can Land Trusts Help?

Resource stewards can address impacts to species by addressing vulnerable wildlife and ecosystems in their conservation work. For example, the Vermont Land Trust executed a targeted 163 acre land acquisition to help struggling black bears move between the Green Mountain and Taconic ranges. Working to connect these vast open spaces in Vermont and New York enhances the ability of bears to move from their home ranges to feeding habitat, and increases connectivity for a variety of wildlife and the ecosystem functions they depend on for survival.

Many conservation programs are driven by objectives to manage wildlife, so existing species-focused programs can support ecosystem protection and enhancement efforts. Increasingly we are learning how interconnected animal species can be to their landscapes. Maintaining migration corridors and critical habitat for animals also protects ecosystem processes and furthers land-focused management objectives.

By planning for climate change today, land trusts help priority species weather the effects of climate change tomorrow. Land trusts may consider the following actions: