Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Planning for Climate Change
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) started working on climate change issues in 2007 after FWC commissioners signed a resolution to address impacts on Florida’s fish and wildlife species. FWC hosted a climate change summit in 2008—Florida’s Wildlife: On the Frontline of Climate Change—to gather input and prioritize needs. The summit concluded that climate change needed to be incorporated into FWC operations and that a plan should be developed to address impacts on Florida’s fish and wildlife. FWC has since designated staff to work specifically on climate change integration, incorporated climate change into the State Wildlife Action Plan, hosted climate change adaptation workshops for practitioners, and worked with partners to implement a number of climate change adaptation projects.
Florida is home to 386 species of birds, 86 species of mammals, 90 species of reptiles, 136 species of fish, and 56 species of amphibians, all of which will be affected by climate change. FWC resource managers recognize that these impacts will have a significant impact on wildlife and that climate adaptation measures need to be implemented throughout the state while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is predicted that the stressors that will have the most impact in Florida are higher temperatures (both air and water), increased droughts, and sea level rise. Changes in extreme weather, precipitation, and ocean acidification also all pose threats to the biodiversity, ecosystem services, and sustainability of Florida’s natural habitats and species. FWC created Florida’s Wildlife Legacy Initiative, now part of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, to develop and implement the Florida State Wildlife Action Plan, which addresses the impacts of climate change on Florida’s ecosystems.
FWC held a climate change summit in 2008 to promote a stakeholder-driven process in the development of a climate change strategic plan. The goals of the summit were to integrate climate change thinking, planning, and actions throughout FWC, provide guidance and direction on climate change policies and activities, and develop the capacity to manage for climate change. During the summit, a variety of targeted workshops were held to develop climate change actions and ensure broad stakeholder and expert participation. The workshops focused on hunting and fishing; inland aquatic and semi-aquatic ecosystems; invasive organisms' effects on biodiversity; marine, estuarine, and coastal ecosystems; native terrestrial species, communities, ecosystems and natural resource management; and land use planning. During each workshop, participants prioritized actions to enhance fish and wildlife populations.
Climate change was added as a priority goal of Florida’s State Wildlife Action Plan and incorporated into the State Wildlife Grant proposal review in 2011. Climate change was integrated into the State Wildlife Action Plan based on guidance from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' Voluntary Guidance for States to Incorporate Climate Change into State Wildlife Action Plans and other Management Plans. The 2019 update of the State Wildlife Action Plan outlines 15 action steps to address climate change. Example recommended actions included:
- Conducting climate vulnerability assessments to improve species management and recovery plans;
- Advancing adaptive management through integrated observation and monitoring to identify tipping points;
- Using decision support tools to select the best available adaptation strategies;
- Filling information gaps that limit the ability to develop and implement adaptation strategies; and
- Implementing strategies to improve habitat resilience by reducing impacts from climate-related stressors.
FWC has addressed many of these action steps through past and ongoing projects. FWC worked with the Defenders to Wildlife to evaluate species and habitat using NatureServe's Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI). Twenty-one species were assessed using this tool—five birds, four reptiles, three amphibians, four mammals, two invertebrates, and three non-native, invasive species. Vulnerability was evaluated based on projected exposure and other factors such as migratory patterns, dietary needs, and temperature and moisture thresholds. For more information, see the final report, Integrating Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments into Adaptation Planning: A Case Study Using the NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index to Inform Conservation Planning for Species in Florida. In 2016, FWC released A Guide to Climate Change Adaptation for Conservation, which includes general and habitat-specific adaptation strategies to reduce the ecological consequences of climate change, and research, monitoring, and outreach recommendations.
FWC also released the Climate Adaptation Explorer (CAE), a web-based guide to the climate impacts Florida’s species and habitats will face alongside adaptation strategies to address those impacts. Cross-cutting adaptation strategies are categorized by land and water protection, restoration, planning, research, policy, education and outreach, collaboration, and monitoring.
Outcomes and Conclusions
FWC has provided direction in the development of climate adaptation strategies and integration into existing management activities. After the summit, FWC provided climate-related staff trainings, integrated climate change into the State Wildlife Action Plan, and continues to align adaptation strategies with national and regional climate change initiatives. Challenges for FWC include managing for future conditions, variability in agency priorities, and monitoring. One specific need expressed by FWC to conduct this type of work is better understanding of the benefits of adaptation efforts (e.g., return on investments and cost of inaction).
Score, A., Gregg, R. M. and Braddock, K.N. (2021). Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Planning for Climate Change [Case study on a project of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/florida-fish-and-wildlife-conservation-commission-planning-climate-change (Last updated October 2021)