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Land management initiatives are honing in on high-value emission reduction gains in some of the most bio-productive systems. Natural climate solutions being implemented in forests, terrestrial and coastal wetlands as well as agricultural lands provide climate benefits.
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.
Coastal areas are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but land trusts in these areas are already successfully working to manage coastal habitats for climate change. Planning to address observed shifts and anticipating likely future impacts can help achieve long-term management objectives and build resilience of critical 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.
Grasslands cover approximately 400 million acres of the contiguous United States.Despite their extensive distribution, grasslands and the neighboring deserts that make up more arid regions are sensitive ecosystems that can be vulnerable to extreme changes in temperature and shifts in precipitation. Land trusts are working to manage grasslands for climate change to protect the biodiversity, habitats, and ecosystem services these landscapes provide.
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.
Climate change has already been linked to changes in wildlife distribution, reproduction and behavior. Enhancing connectivity and “conserving the stage” are critical conservation objectives that can help species adapt to changing conditions.