Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Focal Resources of the Sierra Nevada

EcoAdapt, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CA LCC) hosted the Adaptation Planning Workshop for the Sierra Nevada June 4-5, 2013 in Sacramento, California. The goal of the workshop was to identify management strategies that will help regionally important ecosystems and species adapt to changing climate conditions and to lay the groundwork for adaptation action. Thirty-two attendees representing 21 public agencies (including national forests), non-governmental organizations, and others participated in the workshop.

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Collaboratively identify management and conservation goals and objectives for focal resources.
  2. Present outcomes of spatial analysis and mapping to facilitate adaptation planning.
  3. Develop adaptation strategies to reduce the identified vulnerabilities of resources (from an associated vulnerability assessment workshop) and increase positive long-term outcomes for regional management goals.
  4. Create a list of implementation needs to facilitate incorporation of adaptation strategies into regional planning and management activities.
  5. Provide climate change adaptation training, resources, support, and tools to participants to extend this process to similar efforts in their own work.

Over two days of presentations, discussion and small working groups, managers, scientists, and conservation practitioners identified adaptation strategies for six focal resources: alpine/subalpine systems, Sierra Nevada and southern mountain yellow-legged frogs, yellow pine/mixed conifer systems, red fir systems, wet meadows and fens, and oak woodlands.

Key outcomes of the workshop were:

  1. Refined management goals and objectives for focal resources.
  2. Evaluation of management objective feasibility given climate and non-climate stressors.
  3. A suite of adaptation approaches and actions for each focal resource that can be implemented to help achieve management objectives in the face of climate change.
  4. A prioritized list of adaptation actions for resources across the Sierra Nevada.
  5. Group-developed implementation plans for prioritized actions.

Participants identified a suite of adaptation actions for each of the focal resources and developed draft implementation plans for priority actions. Example adaptation actions for each focal resource considered are described below. Details of these and other workshop-derived adaptation actions are presented in Sections 3-7.

Watershed Management Conservation in a Changing Climate

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, fed by a watershed that stretches from mountains to sea, across 64,000 square miles. The Chesapeake Bay, along with Maryland’s streams and coastal bays, provides a multitude of benefits to Maryland’s citizens, including economic and natural resource benefits. Maryland’s extensive aquatic ecosystems range from freshwater swamps and bogs to freshwater rivers and marshes to coastal bays and salt marshes. These ecosystems are influenced by precipitation, temperature, tropical storms, and human activity. Human development and pollution have degraded their natural resilience, leaving them more vulnerable to climate change and extreme events.One hundred years of data show that Maryland is getting warmer on average by 1.8°F but by as much as 3.6°F in the winter. Warmer air holds more moisture, so we should expect changes in our rainfall. Over the last century, Maryland has become wetter in March and autumn and drier in July and August. For aquatic ecosystems this may alter salinity in the Bay and impact streamflow and stream temperature, all of which could shift where species live and affect watershed restoration projects.

Helping Your Woodland Adapt to a Changing Climate

Your woods are always changing and adapting as they grow and mature, or regrow after agricultural abandonment, natural disturbances, or harvesting activities. Events like storms, droughts, insect and disease outbreaks, or other stressors can damage trees or slow their growth. A changing climate may make your woods more susceptible to the problems these events can cause.

Step 1. Learn more about your woodsStep 2. Contact a foresterStep 3. Identify your goals & objectivesStep 4. Develop and implement a forest stewardship plan

Climate Change Adaptation Principles: Bringing Adaptation to Life in the Marine Biodiversity and Resources Setting

Preparing for change requires individuals, institutions, and sectors to work together. Climate change adaptation action on the ground and across all levels of decision making within the marine biodiversity and resources sector should be guided by the most recent adaptation science, research and practice. A series of high level guiding principles have been drafted (this document). They reflect the knowledge and expertise of researchers, resource managers, policy makers and resource users with direct experience in developing or applying adaptation knowledge. The principles were developed following a one day workshop Bringing Adaptation to Life, held in April 2011 in Cairns, Australia. Organised by the Australian Governments Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), and the NCCARF's Marine Adaptation Network, the workshop brought together leading thinkers and practitioners to share experiences and lessons learned from working in the sector. The day comprised a range of presentations from participants, as well as small group working sessions.

The Four Forest Restoration Initiative: Implementing a Climate Change Adaptation Framework for Natural Resource Management and Planning

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Arizona, working with the USDA Forest Service, TNC-New Mexico, University of Arizona, and Wildlife Conservation Society, convened a two-day workshop entitled Climate Change Adaptation Workshop for Natural Resource Managers in the Four Forest Restoration Initiative area on 7-8 April 2010 in Flagstaff, Arizona (See Appendix B, page 50 for the agenda). Forty-four representatives of 15 state and federal agencies, local governments and non- governmental organizations participated (See Appendix A, page 48 for the list of participants). This workshop was the third in a series of four workshops organized by the Southwest Climate Change Initiative (SWCCI), a collaborative effort to provide information and tools for climate change adaptation planning and implementation for conservation practitioners in the Four Corners states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Workshop Goal and Objectives

The workshop goal was to identify management strategies that will help native plants, animals and ecosystems adapt to a changing climate and lay the groundwork for strategy implementation. The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Provide background information on climate change as it applies to northern Arizona.
  2. Introduce a framework for landscape-scale climate change adaptation planning for use at this workshop and as a tool that can be used in other landscapes.
  3. Assess the impacts of climate change on a set of high-priority species, ecosystems and natural processes selected by workshop organizers and participants.
  4. Identify strategic actions that will reduce climate change impacts.
  5. Identify opportunities for ongoing learning, collaboration, and implementation of on-the- ground climate change adaptation projects in northern Arizona.

Boulder County Climate Change Preparedness Plan

Climate already affects a variety of resources managed by Boulder County, the City of Boulder, and other local municipalities. As an example, prolonged dry spells in the past decade have contributed to major wildfires on public lands that have threatened lives, impacted public health, damaged county and city property and infrastructure, and caused accelerated hill slope erosion that has polluted streams and water supplies. Resource managers working at county departments and throughout other jurisdictions already face challenges posed by the variability of climate across Boulder County.

Climate change, however, could pose a host of new challenges and require managers to pay much greater attention to resource vulnerabilities. These new challenges are most evident in planning efforts. In general, most resource management planning around climate relies on assumptions grounded in existing climate records that date back generally no further than the late 1800s or early 1900s. However, tree ring data, climate model projections, and other sources of climate information indicate that the climate system of the future could be quite different from the past 100 years. Thus the plan presented here is intended to systematically consider the potential effects of projected climate changes on city and county planning and management processes and to identify opportunities for adaptive planning efforts to proactively address the challenges and opportunities posed by changing climate conditions in Boulder County. The objective of this plan is to assist county and city departments that manage climate-sensitive resources and assets to achieve their departmental objectives in the face of challenges posed by anticipated future changes in the climate of Boulder County.

Preparing for and Managing Change: Climate Adaptation for Biodiversity and Ecosystems

The emerging field of climate change adaptation has experienced a dramatic increase in attention as the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystems have become more evident. Preparing for and addressing these changes are now prominent themes in conservation and natural resource policy and practice. Adaptation increasingly is viewed as a way of managing change, rather than just maintaining existing conditions. There is also increasing recognition of the need not only to adjust management strategies in light of climate shifts, but to reassess and, as needed, modify underlying conservation goals. Major advances in the development of climate-adaptation principles, strategies, and planning processes have occurred over the past few years, although implementation of adaptation plans continues to lag. With ecosystems expected to undergo continuing climate-mediated changes for years to come, adaptation can best be thought of as an ongoing process, rather than as a fixed endpoint.


The Added Complications of Climate Change: Understanding and Managing Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Ecosystems around the world are already threatened by land-use and land-cover change, extraction of natural resources, biological disturbances, and pollution. These environmental stressors have been the primary source of ecosystem degradation to date, and climate change is now exacerbating some of their effects. Ecosystems already under stress are likely to have more rapid and acute reactions to climate change; it is therefore useful to understand how multiple stresses will interact, especially as the magnitude of climate change increases. Understanding these interactions could be critically important in the design of climate adaptation strategies, especially because actions taken by other sectors (eg energy, agriculture, transportation) to address climate change may create new ecosystem stresses.


Tools for Assessing Climate Impacts on Fish and Wildlife

Climate change is already affecting many fish and wildlife populations. Managing these populations requires an understanding of the nature, magnitude, and distribution of current and future climate impacts. Scientists and managers have at their disposal a wide array of models for projecting climate impacts that can be used to build such an understanding. Here, we provide a broad overview of the types of models available for forecasting the effects of climate change on key processes that affect fish and wildlife habitat (hydrology, fire, and vegetation), as well as on individual species distributions and populations. We present a framework for how climate-impacts modeling can be used to address management concerns, providing examples of model-based assessments of climate impacts on salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest, fire regimes in the boreal region of Canada, prairies and savannas in the Willamette Valley-Puget Sound Trough-Georgia Basin ecoregion, and marten Martes americana populations in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. We also highlight some key limitations of these models and discuss how such limitations should be managed. We conclude with a general discussion of how these models can be integrated into fish and wildlife management.


Reasonably Foreseeable Futures: Climate Change Adaptation and the National Environmental Policy Act

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) clearly has a role to play in how projects with a federal nexus prepare for climate change. To help agencies improve their consideration of climate change, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in February 2010 released Draft NEPA Guidance, which addressed both emissions and effects of climate change on agency actions and the affected environment. We analyzed 154 Final Environmental Impact Statements released between July 2011 and April 2012, and found that very few incorporated the climate adaptation elements of the 2010 draft guidance. Even the best-performing EISs tended to incorporate climate change into a limited number of the elements of the affected environment, failed to make a full comparison between the various alternatives, or used short and qualitative statements rather than full analysis based on the best available science. This paper explores possible reasons for these deficiencies and presents recommendations for overcoming these obstacles.