The State of Climate Adaptation in U.S. Marine Fisheries Management

This report presents the results of EcoAdapt’s efforts to survey adaptation action in marine fisheries management by examining the major climate impacts on marine and coastal fisheries in the United States, assessing related challenges to fisheries management, and presenting examples of actions taken to decrease vulnerability and/or increase resilience. First, we provide a summary of climate change impacts and secondary effects on fisheries, focusing on changes in air and water temperatures, precipitation patterns, storms, ocean circulation, sea level rise, and water chemistry. We then examine non-climatic factors that affect fisheries management, such as overfishing, bycatch, pollution, habitat degradation and modification, invasive and non-native species, and conflicting uses of marine and coastal ecosystems. Next, we examine how the aforementioned issues combine to influence abundance and productivity, distribution and recruitment, and essential fish habitat. Then we present the results of a survey sent to federal, tribal, state, and other practitioners to identify challenges, needs, and opportunities for climate-informed fisheries management and conservation. Summaries of and trends in commonly used adaptation approaches and examples from our survey and other resources are presented in four broad categories (Gregg et al. 2011; Gregg et al. 2012):

  1. Capacity Building: Strategies include conducting research and assessments, investing in training and outreach efforts, developing new tools and resources, and monitoring climate change impacts and adaptation effectiveness.
  2. Policy: Strategies include developing adaptation plans, creating new or enhancing existing policies, and developing adaptive management strategies.
  3. Natural Resource Management and Conservation: Strategies include incorporating climate change into restoration efforts, enhancing connectivity, reducing local change, and reducing non-climate stressors that may exacerbate the effects of climate change.
  4. Infrastructure, Planning, and Development: Strategies include protecting critical coastal infrastructure used by the fishing industry, and creating or modifying coastal development measures (e.g., removing shoreline hardening, encouraging low-impact development) to increase habitat resilience.

The majority of adaptation efforts in fisheries management to date have been focused on capacity building, including conducting research and assessments, creating resources and tools, and monitoring how climatic changes are affecting species, habitats, and fishing communities. Finally, we discuss several more options to advance adaptation in the fisheries sector that are either not yet represented or are only partially addressed by the examples from our survey. 

Lagged social-ecological responses to climate and range shifts in fisheries

While previous research has documented marine fish and invertebrates shifting poleward in response to warming climates, less is known about the response of fisheries to these changes. By examining fisheries in the northeastern United States over the last four decades of warming temperatures, we show that northward shifts in species distributions were matched by corresponding northward shifts in fisheries. The proportion of warm-water species caught in most states also increased through time. Most importantly, however, fisheries shifted only 10–30 % as much as their target species, and evidence suggested that economic and regulatory constraints played important roles in creating these lags. These lags may lead to overfishing and population declines if not accounted for in fisheries management and climate adaptation. In coupled natural-human systems such as fisheries, human actions play important roles in determining the sustainability of the system and, therefore, future conservation and climate mitigation planning will need to consider not only biophysical changes, but also human responses to these changes and the feedbacks that these responses have on ecosystems.

Cost-Efficient Climate Change Adaptation in the North Atlantic

This report summarizes the work of two NOAA-funded graduate fellows research on community-level coastal flood management and climate change adaptation best practices throughout the North Atlantic region (Virginia to Maine). Guided by a steering committee composed of government and academic personnel involved with climate adaptation throughout the North Atlantic, the fellows visited coastal communities to collect information on low-cost climate change and related coastal hazard management best practices. The purpose of the work was to identify and collate cost-effective adaptation projects implemented at the municipal level, to provide NOAA with best practice information to assist with ongoing adaptation outreach.

Climate change adaptation guidelines for arid zone aquatic ecosystems and freshwater biodiversity

National climate change adaptation guidelines for arid zone aquatic ecosystems and freshwater biodiversity are proposed which emphasize the protection of habitats and processes that support the persistence of freshwater biota under a changing climate. These guidelines are intended to provide guidance for policy development, planning and on-ground actions. The major goal of these guidelines is to reduce the risk of the loss of aquatic habitats, deteriorating water quality and the extinction of aquatic and water-dependent species. A portfolio of adaptation approaches to maintaining aquatic habitats, the water resources that support them, and the species that depend upon them, is proposed within a framework of strategic adaptive management. This approach best addresses the uncertainty that exists as to how climatic changes will play out across the arid zone with respect to water availability and ecological processes. Recommended climate adaptation actions include: implementing a national mapping program that identifies the major types of arid zone aquatic ecosystems and the surface water and groundwater resources that sustain them; recognizing the importance of evolutionary refugia and ecological refuges as priority sites for arid zone climate adaptation planning and policy; protecting a dynamic (spatial and temporal) mosaic of perennial, temporary and ephemeral waterbodies to provide the range of conditions needed support aquatic and water-dependent species with varying life history traits and dispersal abilities; maintaining the integrity of the dry sediments of temporary and ephemeral waters to ensure the persistence of viable seed and egg banks; recognizing the importance of key hydrological and ecological processes, particularly connectivity and dispersal; undertaking vulnerability assessments that determine the climate sensitivity and likely persistence of key habitats; reducing the existing stressors on aquatic ecosystems and aquatic biota; identifying new and novel waterbodies created by arid zone industries (e.g. mining, pastoralism) that could provide valuable offsets for aquatic systems lost through climatic drying; implementing climate adaptation actions within a strategic adaptive management framework accompanied by a dedicated program for indigenous and local community engagement and education.

Changing streamflow on Columbia basin tribal lands—climate change and salmon

Over the last 100 years, linear trends of tributary streamflow have changed on Columbia River Basin tribal reservations and historical lands ceded by tribes in treaties with the United States. Analysis of independent flow measures (Seasonal Flow Fraction, Center Timing, Spring Flow Onset, High Flow, Low Flow) using the Student t test and Mann-Kendall trend test suggests evidence for climate change trends for many of the 32 study basins. The trends exist despite interannual climate variability driven by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation. The average April—July flow volume declined by 16 %. The median runoff volume date has moved earlier by 5.8 days. The Spring Flow Onset date has shifted earlier by 5.7 days. The trend of the flow standard deviation (i.e., weather variability) increased 3 % to 11 %. The 100-year November floods increased 49 %. The mid-Columbia 7Q10 low flows have decreased by 5 % to 38 %. Continuation of these climatic and hydrological trends may seriously challenge the future of salmon, their critical habitats, and the tribal peoples who depend upon these resources for their traditional livelihood, subsistence, and ceremonial purposes.

From the Ground Up: The State of the States on Climate Adaptation for Agriculture

This paper analyzes how state climate adaptation plans treat agriculture and food systems, and identifies challenges and best practices and lift-up innovative approaches for the future. To conduct the analysis, every state was catalouged with a climate adaptation plan that makes concrete recommendations for agricultural adaptation. A list of every agriculture-related policy proposal was created in each state plan and sorted those strategies into ten categories based on our best interpretation of their goals. Eight strategies identified by the USDA in the 2016 report “Adaptation Resources for Agriculture,” were pulled. Two additional categories we identified as important were added, covering financial support and technical assistance.

Key Findings

A few important trends stand out in state climate adaptation plans.

  1. Few states are considering ambitious changes to their agricultural systems, such as changing crop types to fit the altered climate or using new approaches to animal production.
  2. Locally focused adaptation strategies with less daunting scopes, such as those focused on soil and water quality, have gained traction.
  3. Strategies designed to support farmers with technical and financial support for climate adaptation are well-represented.
  4. Very little attention is given to biodiversity, how to “manage farms and fields as part of a larger landscape,” a potentially powerful tool in the face of climate change.
  5. Investing in agriculture-related infrastructure as part of climate adaptation is similarly under-represented.

Embracing Change - Adapting Conservation Approaches to Address a Changing Climate

Climate change may undermine the effectiveness of current efforts to conserve wildlife and ecosystems. Given that time and money for conservation are limited, there is a need for responsible investments that embrace the realities of a changing climate. A thorough consideration of anticipated climate change impacts can reveal the necessity of intentional, strategic, and forward-looking adjustments to what kinds of actions are being implemented, where actions are located, when actions are needed, and what goals those actions are designed to achieve. This report offers real-world examples of how conservation practitioners are already beginning to modify the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY of their conservation endeavors. These stories are intended to inspire others to take a closer look at their conservation strategies and determine whether different approaches will be needed to make the most of limited conservation dollars in the context of climate change and uncertainty. 

 

Hawaiian Islands Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation Synthesis

The goal of the Hawaiian Islands Climate Synthesis Project was to develop comprehensive, science-based syntheses of current and projected future climate change impacts on, and adaptation options for, terrestrial and freshwater resources within the main Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiian Islands Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation Synthesis presents the results of the major project components - climate impacts assessment, vulnerability assessment, and adaptation planning - and provides an inter-island analysis of the findings. More detailed information is available in the individual vulnerability assessment syntheses and adaptation summaries, and should be referred to for decision support, which can be found at http://bit.ly/HawaiiClimate.