The National Wildlife Federation’s Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice looks at how climate change already is affecting the nation’s wildlife and habitats, and addresses how natural resource managers will need to prepare for and adapt to these unprecedented changes.
Coastal Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities: a technical input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment, examines climate change impacts on coastal ecosystems and human economies and communities, as well as the kinds of scientific data, planning tools and resources that coastal communities and resource managers need to help them adapt to these changes.
Research that shows strong correlations between geophysical characteristics and species diversity – currently focused in the Northeast, but being tested elsewhere – suggests that protecting geophysical settings will “conserve the stage” for current and future biodiversity and may be a robust alternative to species-level predictions.
Downeast Lakes Land Trust’s carbon project covers more than 19,000 acres of the trust’s 33,700 Farm Cove Community Forest in eastern Maine, and registered nearly 200,000 offsets; each offset is equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide.
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.
Climate change has already been linked to changes in crop distributions, productivity. and viability, as well as increased drought and fire disturbance. As temperatures continue to warm, these changes will continue. To address current and future challenges, land trusts involved in working farms or farmland conservation are taking steps to manage agricultural lands for climate change.
Climate change has already been linked to changes in habitats and ecosystems, including species composition, weather patterns and the length of the seasons. As average global temperature continues to warm, these changes will continue. Plans to enhance resilience now can help reduce vulnerabilities and improve the adaptive capacity of habitats and ecosystems.
Climate change is already altering fire regimes, invasive plant and insect dispersal, and disease occurrence in forests across the United States. As average global temperature continues to warm, these changes will continue, presenting greater challenges to efforts to sustainably manage forests lands.
Mountainous or high elevation habitats are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, because species often have no choice but to move to higher elevations. The impacts of climate change vary based on the location, elevation and species composition, but may include species migration and extinction, reduced snow cover and the earlier arrival of spring, among others.
Due to climate change rising air temperatures are already warming freshwater habitats. Some lakes and streams have already experienced water loss due to summer droughts. These, and other changes, are likely to continue and accelerate in the coming decades, and impact water quality and quantity, with negative implications for freshwater ecosystems and the species that rely on these vulnerable habitats. Despite these challenges, land trusts are well positioned to manage rivers, lakes and other freshwater habitats for the multiple benefits – both ecological and economic – they provide.