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.

A Window of Opportunity for Climate-Change Adaptation: Easing Tree Mortality by Reducing Forest Basal Area

Increasing aridity as a result of climate change is expected to exacerbate tree mortality. Reducing forest basal area – the cross-sectional area of tree stems within a given ground area – can decrease tree competition, which may reduce drought-induced tree mortality. However, neither the magnitude of expected mortality increases, nor the potential effectiveness of basal area reduction, has been quantified in dryland forests such as those of the drought-prone Southwest US. We used thousands of repeatedly measured forest plots to show that unusually warm and dry conditions are related to high tree mortality rates and that mortality is positively related to basal area. Those relationships suggest that while increasing high temperature extremes forecasted by climate models may lead to elevated tree mortality during the 21st century, future tree mortality might be partly ameliorated by reducing stand basal area. This adaptive forest management strategy may provide a window of opportunity for forest managers and policy makers to guide forest transitions to species and/or genotypes more suited to future climates.

Climate Change Adaptation Cost in the United States: What Do We Know?

This article, jointly authored by ICF International and others, assesses the current state of knowledge on the magnitude of adaptation cost in the United States. While incomplete, the studies suggest that adaptation cost could be as high as hundreds of billions of dollars annually by mid-century.

The article also identifies key studies in each sector, surveys the cost estimates and approaches to cost estimation, and highlights methodological issues in interpreting, comparing, and aggregating adaptation cost estimates. Steps are recommended to make future adaptation cost studies more comparable within and across sectors and more accessible and relevant to policy and decision makers.

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.

Can Payments for Ecosystem Services Contribute to Adaptation to Climate Change? Insights from a Watershed in Kenya

Climate change presents new challenges for the management of social-ecological systems and the ecosystem services they provide. Although the instrument of payments for ecosystem services (PES) has emerged as a promising tool to safeguard or enhance the provision of ecosystem services (ES), little attention has been paid to the potential role of PES in climate change adaptation. As an external stressor climate change has an impact on the social-ecological system in which PES takes place, including the various actors taking part in the PES scheme. Following a short description of the conceptual link between PES and adaptation to climate change, we provide practical insights into the relationship between PES and adaptation to climate change by presenting results from a case study of a rural watershed in Kenya. Drawing upon the results of a participatory vulnerability assessment among potential ecosystem service providers in Sasumua watershed north of Nairobi, we show that PES can play a role in enhancing adaptation to climate change by influencing certain elements of adaptive capacity and incentivizing adaptation measures. In addition, trade-offs and synergies between proposed measures under PES and adaptation to climate change are identified. Results show that although it may not be possible to establish PES schemes based on water utilities as the sole source of financing, embedding PES in a wider adaptation framework creates an opportunity for the development of watershed PES schemes in Africa and ensures their sustainability. We conclude that there is a need to embed PES in a wider institutional framework and that extra financial resources are needed to foster greater integration between PES and adaptation to climate change. This can be achieved through scaling up PES by bringing in other buyers and additional ecosystem services. PES can achieve important coadaptation benefits, but for more effective adaptation outcomes it needs to be combined with vulnerability assessments and climate scenarios to ensure that these are realized and potential trade-offs between PES measures and adaptation measures minimized.

Climate-induced community relocations: using integrated social-ecological assessments to foster adaptation and resilience

Extreme weather events coupled with sea level rise and erosion will cause coastal and riverine areas where people live and maintain livelihoods to disappear permanently. Adaptation to these environmental changes, including the permanent relocation of millions of people, requires new governance tools. In the USA, local governments, often with state-level and national-level support, will be primarily responsible for protecting residents from climate-change impacts and implementing policies needed to protect their welfare. Government agencies have a variety of tools to facilitate protection in place and managed coastal retreat but have very limited tools to facilitate community relocation. In addition, no institutional mechanism currently exists to determine whether and when preventive relocation needs to occur to protect people from climate change impacts. Based on research involving four Alaska Native communities threatened by climate-induced environmental impacts, I propose the design and implementation of an adaptive governance framework to respond to the need to relocate populations. In this context, adaptive governance means the ability of institutions to dynamically respond to climate change impacts. A component of this adaptive governance framework is a social-ecological monitoring and assessment tool that can facilitate collaborative knowledge production by community residents and governance institutions to guide sustainable adaptation strategies and determine whether and when relocation needs to occur. The framework, including the monitoring and assessment tool, has not been systematically tested. However, the potential use of this tool is discussed by drawing on empirical examples of Alaskan communities faced with accelerating rates of erosion.

Securing the Future of Cultural Heritage by Identifying Barriers to and Strategizing Solutions for Preservation under Changing Climate Conditions

Climate change challenges cultural heritage management and preservation. Understanding the barriers that can impede preservation is of paramount importance, as is developing solutions that facilitate the planning and management of vulnerable cultural resources. Using online survey research, we elicited the opinions of diverse experts across southeastern United States, a region with cultural resources that are particularly vulnerable to flooding and erosion from storms and sea level rise. We asked experts to identify the greatest challenges facing cultural heritage policy and practice from coastal climate change threats, and to identify strategies and information needs to overcome those challenges. Using content analysis, we identified institutional, technical and financial barriers and needs. Findings revealed that the most salient barriers included the lack of processes and preservation guidelines for planning and implementing climate adaptation actions, as well as inadequate funding and limited knowledge about the intersection of climate change and cultural heritage. Experts perceived that principal needs to overcome identified barriers included increased research on climate adaptation strategies and impacts to cultural heritage characteristics from adaptation, as well as collaboration among diverse multi-level actors. This study can be used to set cultural heritage policy and research agendas at local, state, regional and national scales.

Climate Impacts on Global Hot Spots of Marine Biodiversity

Human activities drive environmental changes at scales that could potentially cause ecosystem collapses in the marine environment. We combined information on marine biodiversity with spatial assessments of the impacts of climate change to identify the key areas to prioritize for the conservation of global marine biodiversity. This process identified six marine regions of exceptional biodiversity based on global distributions of 1729 species of fish, 124 marine mammals, and 330 seabirds. Overall, these hot spots of marine biodiversity coincide with areas most severely affected by global warming. In particular, these marine biodiversity hot spots have undergone local to regional increasing water temperatures, slowing current circulation, and decreasing primary productivity. Furthermore, when we overlapped these hot spots with available industrial fishery data, albeit coarser than our estimates of climate impacts, they suggest a worrying coincidence whereby the world’s richest areas for marine biodiversity are also those areas mostly affected by both climate change and industrial fishing. In light of these findings, we offer an adaptable framework for determining local to regional areas of special concern for the conservation of marine biodiversity. This has exposed the need for finer-scaled fishery data to assist in the management of global fisheries if the accumulative, but potentially preventable, effect of fishing on climate change impacts is to be minimized within areas prioritized for marine biodiversity conservation.

A measurement framework to increase transparency in historic preservation decision-making under changing climate conditions

Today, cultural heritage planning and decision-making operate under considerable climate, political, and financial uncertainties and constraints. Consequently, decision-makers are often left making value-laden judgments of what to preserve, restore, and maintain in their best judgments, which can leave them open to criticism for not protecting the cultural resources most important to various and diverse stakeholder groups. Thus, a transparent and robust process to optimally maintain cultural heritage values for present and future generations is needed. We address this knowledge gap by developing a novel, transparent, and value-based measurement framework for assessing relative “historical significance” and “use potential” of diverse historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places (United States). Measures of historical significance include: the association of a building with the purpose of a NPS site's foundation, the current physical condition of a building, the building's historic character, and National Register listing criteria. Specific measures of use potential consider the importance of historic building's operational, third party, visitor, interpretative, and scientific uses. The application of the framework is presented using a subset of buildings located within two separately listed historic districts at Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina. The framework focuses on the current status of the cultural resource's significance and use potential while acknowledging that corresponding attributes, metrics and weights can change over time and should be regularly updated. It is hoped that the historical significance and use potential framework can assist the decision-makers and stakeholders, and better inform both the cultural heritage management and allocation prioritization for climate adaptation planning when it is applied in tandem with climate change vulnerability assessments.

Evaluating a decision analytic approach to climate change adaptation of cultural resources along the Atlantic Coast of the United States​

Climate change poses some of the most significant risks for the preservation of coastal cultural resources or cultural heritage. As a result, more research is needed to facilitate the design and implementation of feasible and transparent adaptation strategies for cultural resources under changing climate conditions. In this paper, we begin to explore the challenges and opportunities that face cultural resource managers as they begin to grapple with climate change adaptation planning in dynamic coastal environments. Specifically, we provide an overview of a value-focused, decision-analytic approach that was applied in a pilot test of climate adaptation planning for buildings within designated historic districts on the barrier islands of Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina. We provide descriptions of the challenges that are uniquely facing cultural resource managers and initial evidence of the utility of this type of approach for informing judgments by presenting pre- and post-workshop survey data. Although additional research is critical to offer planning and policy guidance, we found that structured deliberations about cultural resource adaptation planning not only influenced participants’ opinions but also provided a necessary space to better understand the complexities of climate and budget uncertainties. Our evaluation is a first step at documenting the difficult and value-laden decisions that must be addressed by cultural resource managers as fiscal constraints and impending climate impacts threaten the traditional approach of preservation in perpetuity.