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Position Title: 
Engineer III

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. 

 

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Position Title: 
Resilience Planning Assistant at NC SeaGrant

A guide to selecting ecosystem service models for decision-making Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa

 

A guide to selecting ecosystem service models for decision-making

Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa

Ecosystems are essential to human life, livelihoods and wellbeing. Many national policies and international agreements include goals to protect ecosystem services. A new guide – commissioned by the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme and written by Professor James Bullock of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and Helen Ding of World Resources Institute (WRI) – helps readers to assess how ecosystem service models could support policy-making in their countries.

Ecosystem protection features in several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – particularly those on terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity, and the marine environment. Some countries’ national climate action plans, submitted under the 2015 Paris Agreement, include ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation. To date, 127 countries have joined the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an international body to strengthen collaboration between scientific experts and policy-makers on biodiversity, long-term human wellbeing, and sustainable development. 

In order to manage ecosystem services sustainably, decision-makers need to understand the extent and condition of ecosystems. They must be able to predict the impacts of alternative policies or management decisions on the environment.

Frequently, there is not enough measured data on ecosystem services. In these situations, models can provide useful information based on assumptions from similar places. Modeling is especially useful in developing countries, where measured data may be scarce.

 

The guide is particularly suited to advisors and technical managers who are supporting policy-makers. It is based on results from the 2013–16 WISER project, which assessed several ecosystem service modeling tools in sub-Saharan Africa. Policy advisors from Malawi and Uganda contributed actively to the guide’s development.

The guide includes:

-          Advice on how models can inform different types of policy and programme decisions

-          Guidance on how to consider technical capacity and resource needs, when selecting an appropriate model

-          Case studies that draw on current policy issues and modeling experience in Africa.

The ESPA programme is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

 

Resilience in Land Management Planning: Policy Mandates, Approaches, and Resources

Climate change adaptation presents a challenge for federal land management agencies in the United States. Increasingly, these agencies are turning to the concept of resilience to guide planning for an uncertain future. Resilience refers to the ability of a system to withstand disturbances and maintain its general structure and function. However, the concept can be challenging to operationalize, and a range of types of resilience and definitions for the concept exist. Nonetheless, the concept of resilience can aid in planning by emphasizing uncertainty, nonlinearity, adaptability, and consideration of cross-scale linkages. It also requires accepting the inevitability of ecological disturbances, including wildland fires. This working paper aims to provide background and context to support individuals and groups working to implement resilience in various land management planning contexts and we summarize various frameworks for planning for resilience.

Three common types of resilience exist. Engineering resilience is a function of the speed and ease with which a system returns to its equilibrium state following a disturbance. Ecological or social resilience is defined as “the ability of an ecological system or social system to withstand disturbance while still maintaining necessary functions.” Social-ecological resilience is defined as “[the] capacity of an integrated social-ecological system to adapt to disturbance” (Bone et al. 2016). To date, ecological resilience has been the form used most often in federal agency planning.

Various agency policies mandate or encourage the use of resilience in planning. For example, various strategic documents from the U.S. Forest Service emphasize resilience as a key element of climate change adaptation. The concept makes up a component of ecological integrity, a central element of the U.S. Forest Service’s land management planning regulations promulgated in 2012. Accordingly, many planning units working on revising their land management plans are using the concept. The concept also plays a central role in the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. Other agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service are all embracing the concept in adaptation efforts and approaches to responding to disturbances. U.S. Forest Service researchers have developed two cyclical approaches to planning for resilience. The Resilience Alliance has produced a workbook that offers a useful approach to planning for social-ecological resilience, and various other resources, approaches, and data sources are available for a range of contexts, including human communities and specific places.

Based on our review of these mandates and resources, we propose suggestions for how to plan for resilience. Partnerships drawing on scientists, managers across different agencies, and local communities play an important role in planning and executing resilience actions. Breaking up resilience planning into specific steps or phases makes the challenge less daunting and more understandable. These step-bystep processes are cyclical and iterative. It is important to monitor the system and revisit earlier assumptions to modify management activities accordingly. These processes should seek to define the system in question, identify stressors, and use climate projections to understand future conditions. Subsequent working papers will provide more specific recommendations about how to incorporate resilience into land management planning frameworks.