Incorporating Climate Change Adaptation into Florida's Wildlife Planning Processes

Natalie Dubois
Sara O’Brien, Natalie Dubois, Judith Boshoven, Katie Theoharides, Beth Stys, Tim O’Meara
Posted on: 6/21/2012 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Andrea Alden

Project Summary

Defenders of Wildlife (DoW) is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Climate Change Team and Workgroups to define a process to incorporate climate change information into agency planning and decision making. This process will be designed to help guide agency efforts to develop an integrated climate change response strategy that can fulfill the needs of the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) and other agency planning efforts.


In April 2012, DoW received a two-year State Wildlife Grant to support FWC in incorporating climate change into planning efforts. FWC has been engaged in climate change action for over five years; for more background information on previous FWC efforts, please see the case study, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – Planning for Climate Change. FWC’s goal is to develop a common set of tools and approaches for climate change adaptation planning that can be used across the agency’s management programs (e.g., harvested species, imperiled species, SWAP strategies, wildlife management areas [WMA]). At the end of the grant period, FWC managers will have the elements necessary to incorporate climate change adaptation strategies into existing and planned activities. These elements will include: 

  1. a guidance document that provides information on climate change impacts and potential adaptation strategies, and
  2. a process for adaptation planning modeled through a series of case studies that illustrate how to integrate this information into effective and appropriate management actions for individual applications.


The FWC Climate Change Workgroups will conduct ecosystem-level threat assessments, using information from the Florida Climate Change Task Force white papers (specifically, Florida Biodiversity under a Changing Climate and Climate Scenarios: A Florida-Centric View), state-level climate projections available from the Southeast Regional Assessment Project, the La Florida Project, and other sources to identify projected physical changes and potential ecological consequences. DoW is assisting FWC in designing the threat assessment process and gathering and interpreting the resource materials. The FWC Climate Change Workgroups will examine existing climate adaptation strategies (e.g., Washington State Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy; National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Change Adaptation Strategy) and, using those templates, produce potential strategies for addressing threats in Florida.

The FWC and DoW are identifying opportunities for pilot case studies in three FWC management programs to incorporate climate change adaptation into the  planning process (e.g., a WMA plan, an imperiled species management plan, and a habitat type that will be included in the SWAP). Each pilot is focused on a unit that is a current focus of management planning and for which staff involved in planning is interested in and open to incorporating climate change adaptation into the process. Incorporating the threat assessments and adaptation strategies developed by the FWC workgroups and other information as available, DoW will work with the FWC manager(s) responsible for each of the three pilot units to do the following:

  1. Understand the current management plan and implementation process for that particular program;
  2. Review climate change projections and FWC threat assessments to describe how climate change will affect the pilot unit of the management program; and
  3. Identify key opportunities for integrating climate change adaptation into the planning process using the pilot unit as an example.

For each of the three pilot units, DoW will facilitate a small workshop or session (5-6 persons) with the FWC managers responsible for the unit, FWC working group members, and other experts or stakeholders as appropriate to:

  1. Review/revise information gathered on current management planning, climate-related projections, and adaptation opportunities at the unit level;
  2. Develop and prioritize climate change adaptation strategies; and
  3. Develop effectiveness measures for monitoring progress towards goals and objectives for each unit.

If possible, these workshops will be coordinated with the current planning cycle and timelines. Alternatively, the workshops may occur outside of the current planning cycle, but develop guidance on how this information will be incorporated in future planning cycles.

DoW will synthesize the results of the workshops and develop a summary document that provides an overview of climate change adaptation strategies, approaches, and tools identified for each pilot unit during the process, with recommendations for how they can be applied across other units in the management program.

Outcomes and Conclusions

This project is focused on two primary products: a guidance document and a set of three case studies. The guidance document will be a ‘one-stop’ product providing the necessary background information and guidance for incorporating climate change into FWC activities. The first part of the guidance document will consist of an overview of climate change-related stresses and threats that are projected to occur in Florida in a format consistent with the structure of the existing sub-groups (hunting and fishing, marine, freshwater, terrestrial, invasives, and planning). The second part of the guidance document will identify general adaptation principles applicable to Florida’s wildlife and habitat to serve as a guide for managers and planners for incorporating climate change adaptation principles into their ongoing or planned processes. This activity will be the primary responsibility of the FWC with review and assistance as needed by DoW.

The second product will be a set of three case studies that will apply the knowledge of the climate change guidance document. The case studies will unpack the information from the guidance document and develop the decision-making process by which this information can be applied to existing planning efforts, such as the SWAP, imperiled species plans, and WMA plans. The document will provide specific guidance on the process of incorporating climate change adaptation strategies into existing management plans or those under development. The specific case studies will be identified through ongoing discussions with FWC staff.  This product will be the responsibility of DoW with active participation from FWC.


O’Brien, S., Dubois, N., Boshoven, J., Theoharides, K., Stys, B., and O’Meara, T. (2012). Incorporating Climate Change Adaptation into Florida’s Wildlife Planning Processes. Ed. Rachel M. Gregg [Case study on a project of Defenders of Wildlife and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated June 2012)

Project Contacts

Position: Climate Change and Wildlife Scientist
Position: Wildlife Legacy Biologist

Affiliated Organizations

Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  We work to protect and restore America's native wildlife, safeguard habitat, resolve conflicts, work across international borders and educate and mobilize the public.  We are committed to safeguarding biodiversity from the impacts of climate change by advancing wildlife and ecosystem-based adaptation policies and planning.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) was established July 1, 1999 through an amendment approved in the 1998 general election, which combined all the staff and Commissioners of the former Marine Fisheries Commission, elements of the Divisions of Marine Resources and Law Enforcement of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and all of the employees and Commissioners of the former Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. The FWC focuses on habitat management for the protection of wildlife species.

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