Assisted Colonization and Rapid Climate Change

Moving species outside their historic ranges may mitigate loss of biodiversity in the face of global climate change.

Rapid climatic change has already caused changes to the distributions of many plants and animals, leading to severe range contractions and the extinction of some species. The geographic ranges of many species are moving toward the poles or to higher altitudes in response to shifts in the habitats to which these species have adapted over relatively longer periods. It already appears that some species are unable to disperse or adapt fast enough to keep up with the high rates of climate change. These organisms face increased extinction risk, and, as a result, whole ecosystems, such as cloud forests and coral reefs, may cease to function in their current form.

Low Flows Hot Trout: Climate Change in the Clark Fork Watershed

Decades of data and observations now point to a clear conclusion: the Clark Fork River basin is now experiencing a very real shift in climate. During the next 100 years, this shift is expected to accelerate, contributing to physical, ecological, social, and economic changes, many of which have already begun.

Scrolling through the months and the metrics from the 1950s, we now see that March in western Montana is hotter, more precipitation comes as rain, spring snowmelt arrives earlier, extreme wildfires are more frequent, and glaciers are making hastier retreats. And the projections years out show much of the same.

While not all the associated impacts are bad—for example, we can expect a longer growing season and improved survival of deer and elk over the winter—we will also experience more forest disease and insect infestation, more wildfire, and higher temperatures in our rivers leading to habitat degradation for our native fish. Some studies have estimated that we could lose between 5 and 30 percent of trout habitat in western Montana over the next century. With less storage of water as snow in the mountains, we can also expect impacts to our “snowpack economy”—agriculture, recreation and tourism, hydroelectric power generation, and forest and range industries.

What does it all mean for our way of life in the Clark Fork watershed? Low Flows, Hot Trout takes a look, delivering a plain-language synthesis of the key findings from years of data-gathering in our watershed, blended with anecdotal observations by a broad spectrum of river basin citizens, from realtor to rancher, fishing guide to firefighter.

We designed this report to be accessible to the public, informative to those whose livelihoods are directly tied to the river, and illuminating to policymakers looking for effective responses.

The bottom line is this: things can be done and everyone can make a difference, from simple at-home fixes that improve energy and water use to large-scale policy changes that stimulate renewable energy production and river-sensitive growth management. The following pages give a snapshot of what we can do to protect our hometown creeks, our local economies, and our celebrated way of life in the changing climate of the Clark Fork watershed.

Maryland Climate Action Plan, Chapter 5: Reducing Maryland’s Vulnerability to Climate Change

On April 20, 2007, Governor Martin O’Malley signed Executive Order 01.01.2007.07 (the Order) establishing the Maryland Commission on Climate Change (the Commission). Sixteen State agency heads and six members of the General Assembly comprise the Commission. The principal charge of the Commission is to develop a Plan of Action (the Climate Action Plan) to address the drivers of climate change, to prepare for its likely impacts in Maryland, and to establish goals and timetables for implementation.

The Order emphasized Maryland’s particular vulnerability to climate change impacts of sea level rise, increased storm intensity, extreme droughts and heat waves, and increased wind and rainfall events. It recognized that human activities such as coastal development, burning of fossil fuels, and increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are contributing to the causes and consequences of climate change. While noting Maryland’s recent climate initiatives, the Order emphasized that continued leadership by example by Maryland State and local governments is imperative.

The Commission is supported by three Working Groups whose members were appointed by the Commission Chair, Shari T. Wilson, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE): Scientific and Technical Working Group (STWG), chaired by Donald Boesch, President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and co-chaired by Frank W. Dawson, Assistant Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Robert M. Summers, Deputy Secretary of MDE; Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Mitigation Working Group (MWG), chaired by George (Tad) Aburn, Director of MDE’s Air and Radiation Management Administration, and co-chaired by Malcolm Woolf, Director, Maryland Energy Administration (MEA); and Adaptation and Response Working Group (ARWG), chaired by John R. Griffin, Secretary of DNR, and co-chaired by Richard Eberhart Hall, Secretary, Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) and Don Halligan, Assistant Secretary of MDP. These Working Groups and the technical work groups (TWGs) that support them represent diverse stakeholder interests and bring broad perspective and expertise to the Commission’s work. The Commission’s work was facilitated by a consultant, the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS).

Assessing the Effects of Climate Change on Aquatic Invasive Species

Different components of global environmental change are typically studied and managed independently, although there is a growing recognition that multiple drivers often interact in complex and nonadditive ways. We present a conceptual framework and empirical review of the interactive effects of climate change and invasive species in freshwater ecosystems. Climate change is expected to result in warmer water temperatures, shorter duration of ice cover, altered streamflow patterns, increased salinization, and increased demand for water storage and conveyance structures. These changes will alter the pathways by which non-native species enter aquatic systems by expanding fish-culture facilities and water gardens to new areas and by facilitating the spread of species during floods. Climate change will influence the likelihood of new species becoming established by eliminating cold temperatures or winter hypoxia that currently prevent survival and by increasing the construction of reservoirs that serve as hotspots for invasive species. Climate change will modify the ecological impacts of invasive species by enhancing their competitive and predatory effects on native species and by increasing the virulence of some diseases. As a result of climate change, new prevention and control strategies such as barrier construction or removal efforts may be needed to control invasive species that currently have only moderate effects or that are limited by seasonally unfavorable conditions. Although most researchers focus on how climate change will increase the number and severity of invasions, some invasive coldwater species may be unable to persist under the new climate conditions. Our findings highlight the complex interactions between climate change and invasive species that will influence how aquatic ecosystems and their biota will respond to novel environmental conditions.

An Assessment of Invasion Risk from Assisted Migration

To reduce the risk of extinction due to climate change, some ecologists have suggested human-aided translocation of species, or assisted migration (AM), to areas where climate is projected to become suitable. Such intentional movement, however, may create new invasive species if successful introductions grow out of control and cause ecologic or economic damage. We assessed this risk by surveying invasive species in the United States and categorizing invaders based on origin. Because AM will involve moving species on a regional scale within continents (i.e., range shifts), we used invasive species with an intracontinental origin as a proxy for species that would be moved through AM. We then determined whether intracontinental invasions were more prevalent or harmful than intercontinental invasions. Intracontinental invasions occurred far less frequently than invasions from other continents, but they were just as likely to have had severe effects. Fish and crustaceans pose a particularly high threat of intracontinental invasion. We conclude that the risk of AM to create novel invasive species is small, but assisted species that do become invasive could have large effects. Past experience with species reintroductions may help inform policy regarding AM.

Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources

The U.S. Government’s Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) is responsible for providing the best science-based knowledge possible to inform management of the risks and opportunities associated with changes in the climate and related environmental systems. To support its mission, the CCSP has commissioned 21 “synthesis and assessment products” (SAPs) to advance decision making on climate change-related issues by providing current evaluations of climate change science and identifying priorities for research, observation, and decision support. This Report—SAP 4.4—focuses on federally managed lands and waters to provide a “Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources.” It is one of seven reports that support Goal 4 of the CCSP Strategic Plan to understand the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed ecosystems and human systems to climate and related global changes.

Florida Reef Resilience Conference 2008: Resilience Strategies

The final session of the conference involved participants working in small groups to develop ideas that coral reef managers and users could employ to protect the region's reefs from the threats of climate change. Each of six groups discussed a set of strategies and ranked those they considered most useful. This is the total list and rankings of all the strategies.  Conference planners hope this list of strategies, developed by reef managers, anglers, conservationists, dive operators, students and public officials will broaden the discussion about how to protect reefs.

Great Lakes Restoration and the Threat of Global Warming

The Earth’s climate is warming, and the impacts are already being observed in the Great Lakes — the source of nearly a fifth of the world's surface freshwater. This report synthesizes current climate change science and presents the likely impacts warming temperatures will have on the Great Lakes, people and wildlife. It also provides recommendations for curbing global warming while at the same time preserving the resilience and adaptive capacity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

The lakes likely will experience a wide range of negative impacts as air and water temperatures increase. The Great Lakes are already a highly stressed ecosystem, and climate change will exacerbate existing threats to the lakes.

People, businesses and communities will see changes to the regional economy and quality of life, including potential conflicts between shoreline property owners and the public; diminished fishing, hunting and swimming opportunities; challenges to our economy such as impacts to the shipping industry.

The good news is that there are solutions. Some of the suggested solutions are:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions (80 percent reduction by mid-century)
  • Maximize options for species protection and preserving biodiversity
  • Restore vital ecosystem services such as water filtration and storage, pollination, soil enrichment and support of the food web

Many of these measures have been incorporated into a comprehensive strategy to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Inserted into federal legislation, the strategy is the subject of a national campaign by the Healing Our Waters® - Great Lakes Coalition.

British Columbia's Climate Action Plan

This Climate Action Plan – Phase One describes how the government will build on the framework established since 2007 and identify choices we can all make to save money and reduce our carbon footprint. We will develop subsequent phases of the plan with the continued guidance of the very best scientific, economic and engineering minds in British Columbia and throughout the world.

Second Report and Initial Recommendations Miami-Dade County Climate Change Advisory Task Force

These initial recommendations were drafted at the committee level for review by the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force (CCATF). After extensive deliberations and further development, the recommendations were unanimously approved by the full Task Force on March 20, 2008. The items proposed focus on both mitigation activities and adaptation strategies. Mitigation efforts include activities that attempt to slow the process of global climate change by lowering the level of greenhouse gases [GHG] in the atmosphere, such as reducing fossil fuel consumption. Adaptation efforts include proactive steps we can take now to begin the process of making the County more resilient to the impacts that we are likely to experience.