Voluntary Guidance for States to Incorporate Climate Change into State Wildlife Action Plans & Other Management Plans

The Climate Change Wildlife Action Plan Guidance Document provides voluntary guidance for state fish and wildlife agencies wanting to better incorporate the impacts of climate change on wildlife and their habitats into Wildlife Action Plans. The approaches and techniques described in this document will also be useful in modifying other wildlife plans (e.g. big game/upland game/migratory bird plans, joint venture implementation plans, national fish habitat action plan, etc.) to address climate change. The document provides an overview of the information currently available on climate change, tools that can be used to plan for and implement climate change adaptation, voluntary guidance and case studies. Climate change is a large and growing threat to all wildlife and natural systems and will also exacerbate many existing threats. Efforts to address climate change should not diminish the immediate need to deal with threats that may be independentof climate change such as habitat loss/fragmentation from development, introduction of invasive species, water pollution and wildlife diseases. Since climate change is a complex and often politically- charged issue, it is understood that the decision to revise Wildlife Action Plans or other plans to address climate change, rests solely with each state fish and wildlife agency.

All states will be required to update their Wildlife Action Plans by 2015, although some states have opted for earlier revisions. Wildlife Action Plans may need to be revised earlier or more frequently than anticipated to account for the accelerating impacts of climate change. In addition climate change legislation passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009 would require each state to develop a state adaptation strategy and to incorporate that strategy into a revision of the state’s Wildlife Action Plan (similar legislation in the U.S. Senate is being considered). Although revision of Wildlife Action Plans for climate change is not currently required, starting the revision process now can help states prepare for potential climate change funding through federal appropriations in FY10 and/or through funding that may become available if Congress passes comprehensive climate change legislation.

The Guidance Document consists of three major chapters that provide information and resources that could be used to update Wildlife Action Plans to incorporate climate change impacts. Chapter 1 introduces processes, approaches and key concepts that can be used to develop climate change adaptation strategies for fish and wildlife  management. Chapter 2 describes tools, both old and new, that may be useful in developing, implementing and monitoring for these plans. Chapter 3 provides more detail on the process of updating Wildlife Action Plans, summarizes existing guidance and discusses how addressing climate change might affect the plan revision process. The references section and appendices to the document are a source of additional information on climate change.

The Ocean and Climate Change: Tools and Guidelines for Action

The purpose of this report ‘The Ocean and Climate Change – Tools and Guidelines for Action’ is to engage, inform and guide decision makers with regard to the development and implementation of marine and coastal climate change strategies and programmes.Despite its enormous importance in regulating global climate and its sensitivity to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, the ocean continues to get only peripheral attention in global climate research, climate change policy and implementation plans. For example, recent authoritative coverage of climate change in a Nature special issue made little reference to the ocean and no reference to marine biodiversity. This document on ‘The Ocean and Climate Change – Tools and Guidelines for Action’ serves to raise awareness and gives science-based action recommendations relevant to international and national climate change implementation processes.

The document provides an overview of the interactions between the ocean and climate and describes the impacts of climate change on the marine ecosystems and the goods and services they provide human society. Further, it outlines a set of recommendations for marine-related mitigation and adaptation policy and implementation actions.

The potential and limits of the ocean in climate change mitigation strategies is highlighted by sections on marine renewable energy resources, natural marine carbon sequestration, carbon capture and storage and ocean fertilization. The publication further stresses Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) as a means to improve social and ecosystem resilience to global ocean and climate change. Carefully designed marine protected areas and risk reduction management are included as means to reduce vulnerability of social and natural systems to future change.

National MPA Center Strategic Plan 2010 – 2015

The MPA Center Strategic Plan was revised in 2009 to more accurately reflect the organization’s evolving structure and priorities, with a greater emphasis on further developing the national system of MPAs and its operational capabilities. The plan also includes special interest areas of importance to the design and implementation of the national system over the next five year planning cycle.

The MPA Center recognizes that the ongoing development and implementation of the national system of MPAs is a dynamic process requiring adaptive management. As the national system of MPAs matures, this Plan also will evolve in recognition of accomplishments and future requirements.

Placed-based Climate Change Adaptation: Overcoming the Paralysis of Uncertainty

Climate change poses many challenges to the conservation of fish, wildlife and their habitats. As temperatures warm and precipitation patterns change, species and ecosystems will need to either adapt in place, move across the landscape to track optimal conditions, or face an increased risk of going locally or even globally extinct. While there is a growing acknowledgement of the threat of climate change to fish and wildlife conservation, managers continue to struggle with how to translate the science on climate change into site- and target-specific strategies for action. The uncertainties and complexities involved in predicting future conditions can often be paralyzing to those trying to make decisions about fish and wildlife conservation. Cross discusses these challenges, and presents an iterative framework for adaptation planning and action that helps users overcome the paralysis of uncertainty and start addressing the question of what we should be doing differently to manage and conserve wildlife as climate changes. The framework draws on approaches to making decisions under uncertainty, such as scenario-based planning and adaptive management.

Assisted Colonization Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act

Assisted colonization could help prevent the extinction of threatened and endangered species by intentionally moving a species to a region where it has not occurred in the recent past, but should survive under future climate scenarios. Where species are naturally localized and confined to patchy habitats, assisted colonization might be the only means for population dispersal across human landscape barriers such as urban and agriculture areas. The major risk associated with assisted colonization is introducing ecologically harmful species. Previous policy papers have described management options for deciding when to move a species to mitigate for climate change. We build on this previous work by examining management options and policy solutions for assisted colonization under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). On its surface, the ESA statutory language appears to provide the legal framework for allowing assisted colonization, as the U.S. Congress gave the U.S. Fish andWildlife Service (USFWS) broad discretion to manage populations of endangered species. However, current USFWS regulations are an impediment to assisted colonization for many endangered animal species, whereas regulations do not necessarily restrict assisted colonization of endangered plants. Because of this discrepancy, we recommend a review of the regulatory language governing movements of endangered species.

Climate Change Impacts to Water Availability in Alaska Summary

Alaska is already showing evidence of climate change. Increases in temperature and changes in precipitation have had profound effects on regional hydrology, including shrinking wetlands, glacier and polar sea ice recession, permafrost melting, and an increase in fire frequency and intensity across the landscape as a result of increased drought and thunderstorms. Continuation of these trends will likely lead to further changes in the hydrologic cycle, with significant implications for the people, places, and wildlife that depend on Alaska’s water resources.

Coral Reef Resilience Assessment of the Pemba Channel Conservation Area, Tanzania

From the Executive Summary:

This report outlines results of an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessment of the resilience to climate change of Pemba’s coral reefs. The coral reefs of Pemba, Tanzania, are among the most diverse in East Africa. However, they are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Thirteen reef sites on western Pemba covering a range of reef habitats were surveyed using a recently developed resilience assessment methodology, covering coral and algal community, herbivorous fish populations and specific resilience indicators. The resilience of Pemba’s coral reefs to climate change is under serious threat. However, these threats are manageable.

Terrestrial Ecosystem Adaptation

In this report, we evaluate adaptation issues for natural ecosystems. We will specifically focus on the interactions with the abiotic environment of plants and animals, along with other organisms with which they interact (e.g., disease‐causing bacteria and viruses). We further limit ourselves to natural ecosystems in which the predominant vegetation has developed without having been planted, irrigated, or fertilized. Most of the natural lands in the United States are managed by federal or state governments. Agricultural lands—including range grazing lands —are dealt with in a related adaptation report. This will evaluate the potential magnitudes and challenges facing terrestrial ecosystems in the United States in adapting to changing climate over the next 30–50 years. Our report will not address attribution or mitigation of climate change, as these topics have been dealt with in many other forums. We will begin with a brief summary of the current trajectory of the changing climate in the United States, including both temporal and spatial patterns. We will then relate these trends to ecosystem impacts and vulnerabilities. We consider adaptation in the broad sense to include any means by which organisms successfully confront a perturbation such as climate change. This includes both local adaptation in place—either through plastic responses or through evolutionary changes—as well as changes in movements within or outside of the current geographic range. Some species (often invasive and disease species) will adapt spectacularly. By contrast, those unable to adapt will experience decreased average mean fitness, translating into population decline, decreased persistence, and changed community and ecosystem structure. After considering ecological adaptation mechanisms, it becomes possible to consider potential management options to enhance adaptation. We do not make recommendations of specific adaptation activities at this point; rather, we suggest alternatives to begin the discussion.

Adaptation Planning for the National Estuary Program

This document describes five critical elements of adaptation planning, and provides examples of these elements and suggestions for additional resources. Any estuary in the National Estuary Program (NEP) should incorporate these elements in an adaptation plan to achieve recognition as a Climate Ready Estuary (CRE). While specifically developed for the NEPs, this document can be used as a resource for other coastal communities as a starting point for planning to adapt to climate change.

The five critical elements that an adaptation plan should include to earn Climare Ready Estuary (CRE) recognition are:

  • Assessment of vulnerability to climate change
  • Summary of considerations used to set priorities and select actions
  • Description of specific adaptation actions for implementation
  • Plan for communicating with stakeholders and decision makers
  • Plan for monitoring and evaluating results.

Jemez Mountains Climate Change Adaptation Workshop: Process, Outcomes and Next Steps

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) convened a two-day workshop on climate change adaptation in the Jemez Mountains on April 21-22, 2009 in Los Alamos, New Mexico. More than 50 representatives of state and federal agencies, tribal governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participated.

The Jemez Mountains Climate Change Adaptation Workshop was the first in a series of four to be organized by the Southwest Climate Change Initiative (SWCCI), a project of TNC and collaborators from the Wildlife Conservation Society, USDA Forest Service, University of Arizona and University of Washington. The goal of the SWCCI is to provide information and tools for climate change adaptation planning and implementation to conservation practitioners in the Four Corners states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The workshop goal was to help resource managers develop strategies for helping species and ecosystems adapt to climate change, and to enhance cross-boundary collaboration using new tools and the best available climate change science. The objectives of the workshop were:

  1. Provide background information on climate change and its effects in the one million-acre Jemez Mountains landscape;
  2. Assess the effects of climate change on key species, ecosystems and ecological processes;
  3. Using a new adaptation planning framework, identify management actions to reduce climate change impacts;
  4. Identify opportunities for learning, collaboration and application of the adaptation planning process for natural resource management in the Jemez Mountains.

Over the course of two days, managers, scientists and conservation practitioners worked together to identify adaptation strategies under two climate change scenarios – one moderate, and one more extreme.

Following the workshop, representatives of the Santa Fe National Forest, Valles Caldera National Preserve, Jemez Pueblo, NM Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute and TNC resolved to work together to develop an ecological restoration strategy for a 210,000-acre mixed-ownership landscape in the southwestern Jemez Mountains.

Finally, the work of the Southwest Climate Change Initiative continues. In December 2009, a second climate change adaptation workshop was held for Colorado’s Gunnison Basin (see http://www.nmconservation.org/projects/new_mexico_climate_change for products) , and a third is scheduled for April 2010 for the forests of northern Arizona. A fourth workshop will be held in Utah in mid-2010.