Public lands and waters in the United States traditionally have been managed using frameworks and objectives that were established under an implicit assumption of stable climatic conditions. However, projected climatic changes render this assumption invalid. Here, we summarize general principles for management adaptations that have emerged from a major literature review. These general principles cover many topics including: (1) how to assess climate impacts to ecosystem processes that are key to management goals; (2) using management practices to support ecosystem resilience; (3) converting barriers that may inhibit management responses into opportunities for successful implementation; and (4) promoting flexible decision making that takes into account challenges of scale and thresholds. To date, the literature on management adaptations to climate change has mostly focused on strategies for bolstering the resilience of ecosystems to persist in their current states. Yet in the longer term, it is anticipated that climate change will push certain ecosystems and species beyond their capacity to recover. When managing to support resilience becomes infeasible, adaptation may require more than simply changing management practices—it may require changing management goals and managing transitions to new ecosystem states. After transitions have occurred, management will again support resilience—this time for a new ecosystem state. Thus, successful management of natural resources in the context of climate change will require recognition on the part of managers and decisions makers of the need to cycle between “managing for resilience” and “managing for change.”
All human–environment systems adapt to climate and its natural variation. Adaptation to human-induced change in climate has largely been envisioned as increments of these adaptations intended to avoid disruptions of systems at their current locations. In some places, for some systems, however, vulnerabilities and risks may be so sizeable that they require transformational rather than incremental adaptations. Three classes of transformational adaptations are those that are adopted at a much larger scale, that are truly new to a particular region or resource system, and that transform places and shift locations. We illustrate these with examples drawn from Africa, Europe, and North America.
Toward Resilience: A Guide to Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation is an introductory resource for staff of development and humanitarian organizations working with people whose lives and rights are threatened by disasters and climate change.
Predictive frameworks of climate change extinction risk generally focus on the magnitude of climate change a species is expected to experience and the potential for that species to track suitable climate. A species’ risk of extinction from climate change will depend, in part, on the magnitude of climate change the species experiences, its exposure. However, exposure is only one component of risk. A species’ risk of extinction will also depend on its intrinsic ability to tolerate changing climate, its sensitivity. We examine exposure and sensitivity individually for two example taxa, terrestrial amphibians and mammals. We examine how these factors are related among species and across regions and how explicit consideration of each component of risk may affect predictions of climate change impacts. We find that species’ sensitivities to climate change are not congruent with their exposures. Many highly sensitive species face low exposure to climate change and many highly exposed species are relatively insensitive. Separating sensitivity from exposure reveals patterns in the causes and drivers of species’ extinction risk that may not be evident solely from predictions of climate change. Our findings emphasise the importance of explicitly including sensitivity and exposure to climate change in assessments of species’ extinction risk.
Climate change is altering ecological systems throughout the world. Managing these systems in a way that ignores climate change will likely fail to meet management objectives. The uncertainty in projected climatechange impacts is one of the greatest challenges facing managers attempting to address global change. In order to select successful management strategies, managers need to understand the uncertainty inherent in projected climate impacts and how these uncertainties affect the outcomes of management activities. Perhaps the most important tool for managing ecological systems in the face of climate change is active adaptive management, in which systems are closely monitored and management strategies are altered to address expected and ongoing changes. Here, we discuss the uncertainty inherent in different types of data on potential climate impacts and explore climate projections and potential management responses at three sites in North America. The Central Valley of California, the headwaters of the Klamath River in Oregon, and the barrier islands and sounds of North Carolina each face a different set of challenges with respect to climate change. Using these three sites, we provide specific examples of how managers are already beginning to address the threat of climate change in the face of varying levels of uncertainty.
Few conservation projects consider climate impacts or have a process for developing adaptation strategies. To advance climate adaptation for biodiversity conservation, we tested a step-by-step approach to developing adaptation strategies with 20 projects from diverse geographies. Project teams assessed likely climate impacts using historical climate data, future climate predictions, expert input, and scientific literature. They then developed adaptation strategies that considered ecosystems and species of concern, project goals, climate impacts, and indicators of progress. Project teams identified 176 likely climate impacts and developed adaptation strategies to address 42 of these impacts. The most common impacts were to habitat quantity or quality, and to hydrologic regimes. Nearly half of expected impacts were temperature-mediated. Twelve projects indicated that the project focus, either focal ecosystems and species or project boundaries, need to change as a result of considering climate impacts. More than half of the adaptation strategies were resistance strategies aimed at preserving the status quo. The rest aimed to make ecosystems and species more resilient in the face of expected changes. All projects altered strategies in some way, either by adding new actions, or by adjusting existing actions. Habitat restoration and enactment of policies and regulations were the most frequently prescribed, though every adaptation strategy required a unique combination of actions. While the effectiveness of these adaptation strategies remains to be evaluated, the application of consistent guidance has yielded important early lessons about how, when, and how often conservation projects may need to be modified to adapt to climate change.