Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Focal Resources of the Sierra Nevada

EcoAdapt, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CA LCC) hosted the Adaptation Planning Workshop for the Sierra Nevada June 4-5, 2013 in Sacramento, California. The goal of the workshop was to identify management strategies that will help regionally important ecosystems and species adapt to changing climate conditions and to lay the groundwork for adaptation action. Thirty-two attendees representing 21 public agencies (including national forests), non-governmental organizations, and others participated in the workshop.

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Collaboratively identify management and conservation goals and objectives for focal resources.
  2. Present outcomes of spatial analysis and mapping to facilitate adaptation planning.
  3. Develop adaptation strategies to reduce the identified vulnerabilities of resources (from an associated vulnerability assessment workshop) and increase positive long-term outcomes for regional management goals.
  4. Create a list of implementation needs to facilitate incorporation of adaptation strategies into regional planning and management activities.
  5. Provide climate change adaptation training, resources, support, and tools to participants to extend this process to similar efforts in their own work.

Over two days of presentations, discussion and small working groups, managers, scientists, and conservation practitioners identified adaptation strategies for six focal resources: alpine/subalpine systems, Sierra Nevada and southern mountain yellow-legged frogs, yellow pine/mixed conifer systems, red fir systems, wet meadows and fens, and oak woodlands.

Key outcomes of the workshop were:

  1. Refined management goals and objectives for focal resources.
  2. Evaluation of management objective feasibility given climate and non-climate stressors.
  3. A suite of adaptation approaches and actions for each focal resource that can be implemented to help achieve management objectives in the face of climate change.
  4. A prioritized list of adaptation actions for resources across the Sierra Nevada.
  5. Group-developed implementation plans for prioritized actions.

Participants identified a suite of adaptation actions for each of the focal resources and developed draft implementation plans for priority actions. Example adaptation actions for each focal resource considered are described below. Details of these and other workshop-derived adaptation actions are presented in Sections 3-7.

A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Focal Resources of the Sierra Nevada

This vulnerability assessment is an initial science-based effort to identify how and why focal resources (ecosystems, species populations, and ecosystem services) across the Sierra Nevada region are likely to be affected by future climate conditions. The overarching goal is to help resource managers and stakeholders plan their management of these focal resources in light of a changing climate. Specifically, this information can facilitate priority setting for management action and responses, helping to sustain optimal conditions for and productivity of focal resources. Twenty-seven focal resources including eight ecosystems, populations of fifteen species, and four ecosystem services were identified as important by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) as part of their forest plan revision process or by Sierra Nevada stakeholders and are considered in this assessment. This assessment centers on the Sierra Nevada region of California, from foothills to crests, including ten national forests and two national parks.

Land Management: Farming in a Changing Climate

The importance of farming in Maryland

Agriculture is the largest commercial industry in Maryland, employing about 350,000 people, on almost 13,000 farms covering two million acres.

What is changing?

Over the past century, both minimum and maximum temperatures have been increasing. In the future, Maryland should expect higher temperatures, more intense precipitation in the fall and winter, and an increase in short-term droughts in the summer. The two most active farming regions in Maryland are also two of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The eastern shore is vulnerable to sea level rise, drought, and flooding and the north central region to increased precipitation variability, including flooding and drought. Because of this:

  • Water management will become a larger concern.
  • Rising temperatures, carbon dioxide, and ozone will increase stress on nearly all crop and livestock species.
  • Pests and diseases, such as soybean rust will likely plague farmers in the future.

Who should be concerned?

As the climate changes, farmers, the farm credit industry, and regulators of agricultural management practices will likely face a large and growing degree of uncertainty. These changes occur in the current context of high economic uncertainty and small profit margins and are likely to result in increased costs to both farmers and consumers.

Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan 2012-2017

The evidence of coral reef vulnerability and the predictions of climate change underpin the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009 conclusion that climate change is the dominant threat to the future of the Reef. This document outlines our strategy to address these challenges, and sets out our plan for action over the next five years. It builds on the strong foundations laid by our pioneering work under the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan (2007–2012). We are proud of our efforts in tackling the climate change challenge for the Great Barrier Reef, but there is still much work to be done to secure the future for the Reef. The Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Adaptation Strategy outlines our vision for ongoing efforts to help the Reef, its industries and its communities adjust to a changing climate. Through the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan (2012–2017) the Australian Government is committing to a program of activity that will improve the outlook for the Reef.

Starting Climate Adaptation Where Community Concerns Exist in Elkford, British Columbia


United States
50° 1' 28.434" N, 114° 55' 24.708" W

Grizzly bears, moose, mountain goats, deer, elk—all call Elkford, British Columbia home. Wild at Heart is the community slogan and the area is known as the wilderness capitol of British Columbia. As a Rocky Mountain town, the local economy is dependent on the surrounding natural resources—coal mining, logging and increasingly, tourism. How does a community that values it wilderness, wildlife, and depends on the natural resources adapt to climate change? By finding solutions that are in sync with community values.

Climate Change in the Northwest: Implications for Our Landscapes, Waters, and Communities

Climate Change in the Northwest: Implications for Our Landscapes, Waters, and Communities is a report aimed at assessing the state of knowledge about key climate impacts and consequences to various sectors and communities in the Northwest United States. This report draws on two recent state climate assessments in Washington in 2009 (Washington State Climate Change Impacts Assessment) and in Oregon in 2010 (Oregon Climate Assessment Report) and a wealth of additional literature and research prior to and after these state assessments.

As an assessment, this report aims to be representative (though not exhaustive) of the key climate change issues as reflected in the growing body of Northwest climate change science, impacts, and adaptation literature available at this point in time. This report process co-evolved with the process to produce the Northwest chapter of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA), specifically through a shared risk framework to identify key risks of climate change facing the Northwest. Beginning with a workshop in December 2011, scientists and stakeholders from all levels and types of organizations from all over the Northwest engaged in a discussion and exercise to begin the process of ranking climate risks according to likelihood of occurrence and magnitude of consequences. The risks considered were previously identified in the Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework. A summary of the workshop was submitted as a technical input to the NCA. This initial risk exercise was continued by the lead author team of the Northwest chapter of the Third NCA resulting in several informal white papers that were (1) condensed and synthesized into the Northwest chapter of the Third NCA and (2) expanded on and added to forming the present report.

We anticipate that this report will serve as (1) an updated resource for scientists, stakeholders, decision makers, students, and interested community members on current climate change science and key impacts to sectors and communities in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho; (2) a resource for adaptation planning, (3) a more detailed, foundational report supporting the key findings presented in the Northwest chapter of the Third NCA; and (4) a resource directing readers to the wealth of climate literature in the Northwest as cited in each chapter.


Organization of This Report

This report begins with an overview of the Northwest's varied natural and human systems (Chapter 1) followed by a description of observed and projected physical climate changes for the Northwest (Chapter 2), which together provides a context for understanding climate impacts within our geographically diverse region. The remainder of the report is organized by sectors of economic and cultural importance that are especially vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Key climate impacts and their consequences as well as adaptation measures and gaps in knowledge are described for freshwater resources and ecosystems (Chapter 3), coastal communities and ecosystems (Chapter 4), forest ecosystems (Chapter 5), agriculture (Chapter 6), human health (Chapter 7), and tribal communities (Chapter 8).


The production of this report was led jointly by representatives from the Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC) and the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group (CIG). Partners include the following federal, state, tribal, private, non-profit, university, and other organizations represented by the author team: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, US Geological Survey, US Department of Interior Alaska Climate Science Center, Idaho Department of Water Resources, Cascadia Consulting Group, National Wildlife Federation, EcoAdapt, Oregon State University, University of Idaho, University of Washington, Washington State University, University of Oregon, Nooksack Indian Tribe, Tulalip Natural Resources, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and the Suquamish Tribe.

Climate Change and its Impact on Population Health in Southern China: Implication for Adaptation Policy

China is experiencing noticeable changes in its climate. Annual average air temperature has risen by 0.5-0.8℃, slightly higher than the average global temperature increase (0.74℃), and most of these changes have been observed over the past 50 years. In the southern China province of Guangdong, the annual average air temperature increased from 21.4℃ in 1960s to 21.9℃ in 1990s, with an increase of 0.5℃ and is predicted to increase between 1.0℃ and 2.8℃ between 2011 and 2100.

The widespread consensus that climate change is impacting human health has brought attention and initiated a response from policy-making, research and NGO communities worldwide. Public health concerns of climate change have become increasingly important within the Chinese context. Although climate change research in China has been supported by the government since 1990s and has focused on areas such as agriculture and water, research on health has only recently begun. As a part of the Adapting to Climate Change in China (ACCC) project, Guangdong Center for Disease Control and Prevention (GDCDC) is undertaking the first comprehensive study in China into the health impacts and adaptation policy of climate change. This briefing summarizes key findings from this research.

U.S. Executive Order - Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change

The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to take a series of steps to make it easier for American communities to strengthen their resilience to extreme weather and prepare for other impacts of climate change. The Federal Government has an important role to play in supporting community-based preparedness and resilience efforts by establishing policies and prioritizing investments that promote preparedness, protecting critical infrastructure and public resources, supporting science and research needed to prepare for climate impacts, and ensuring that Federal operations and facilities continue to protect and serve citizens in a changing climate.

The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to:

  • Modernize Federal programs to support climate-resilient investments: Agencies will examine their policies and programs and find ways to make it easier for cities and towns to build smarter and stronger. Agencies will identify and remove any barriers to resilience-focused actions and investments– for example, policies that encourage communities to rebuild to past standards after disasters instead of to stronger standards – including through agency grants, technical assistance, and other programs in sectors from transportation and water management to conservation and disaster relief.
  • Manage lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience: America’s natural resources are critical to our Nation’s economy, health and quality of life. The E.O. directs agencies to identify changes that must be made to land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations to strengthen the climate resilience of our watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them. Federal agencies will also evaluate how to better promote natural storm barriers such as dunes and wetlands, as well as how to protect the carbon sequestration benefits of forests and lands to help reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change. 
  • Provide information, data and tools for climate change preparedness and resilience: Scientific data and insights are essential to help communities and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with extreme weather and other impacts of climate change.  The E.O. instructs Federal agencies to work together and with information users to develop new climate preparedness tools and information that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.  In keeping with the President’s Open Data initiative, agencies will also make extensive Federal climate data accessible to the public through an easy-to-use online portal.
  • Plan for climate change related risk: Recognizing the threat that climate change poses to Federal facilities, operations and programs, the E.O. builds on the first-ever set of Federal agency adaptation plans released earlier this year and directs Federal agencies to develop and implement strategies to evaluate and address their most significant climate change related risks.  

To implement these actions, the E.O. establishes an interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired by the White House and composed of more than 25 agencies. To assist in achieving the goals of the E.O., these agencies are directed to consider the recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

Effects of Climatic Variability and Change on Forest Ecosystems: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis for the U.S. Forest Sector

This report is a scientific assessment of the current condition and likely future condition of forest resources in the United States relative to climatic variability and change. It serves as the U.S. Forest Service forest sector technical report for the National Climate Assessment and includes descriptions of key regional issues and examples of a risk-based framework for assessing climate-change effects.

By the end of the 21st century, forest ecosystems in the United States will differ from those of today as a result of changing climate. Although increases in temperature, changes in precipitation, higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), and higher nitrogen (N) deposition may change ecosystem structure and function, the most rapidly visible and most significant short-term effects on forest ecosystems will be caused by altered disturbance regimes. For example, wildfires, insect infestations, pulses of erosion and flooding, and drought-induced tree mortality are all expected to increase during the 21st century. These direct and indirect climate-change effects are likely to cause losses of ecosystem services in some areas, but may also improve and expand ecosystem services in others. Some areas may be particularly vulnerable because current infrastructure and resource production are based on past climate and steady-state conditions. The ability of communities with resource-based economies to adapt to climate change is linked to their direct exposure to these changes, as well as to the social and institutional structures present in each environment. Human communities that have diverse economies and are resilient to change today will also be prepared for future climatic stresses.

Significant progress has been made in developing scientific principles and tools for adapting to climate change through science-management partnerships focused on education, assessment of vulnerability of natural resources, and development of adaptation strategies and tactics. In addition, climate change has motivated increased use of bioenergy and carbon (C) sequestration policy options as mitigation strategies, emphasizing the effects of climate change-human interactions on forests, as well as the role of forests in mitigating climate change. Forest growth and afforestation in the United States currently account for a net gain in C storage and offset approximately 13 percent of the Nation’s fossil fuel CO2 production. Climate change mitigation through forest C management focuses on (1) land use change to increase forest area (afforestation) and avoid deforestation, (2) C management in existing forests, and (3) use of wood as biomass energy, in place of fossil fuel or in wood products for C storage and in place of other building materials. Although climate change is an important issue for management and policy, the interaction of changes in biophysical environments (e.g., climate, disturbance, and invasive species) and human responses to those changes (management and policy) will ultimately determine outcomes for ecosystem services and people.

Although uncertainty exists about the magnitude and timing of climate-change effects on forest ecosystems, sufficient scientific information is available to begin taking action now. Building on practices compatible with adapting to climate change provides a good starting point for land managers who may want to begin the adaptation process. Establishing a foundation for managing forest ecosystems in the context of climate change as soon as possible will ensure that a broad range of options will be available for managing forest resources sustainably.

Oceans and Marine Resources in a Changing Climate: A Technical Input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment

Oceans and Marine Resources in a Changing Climate describes scientific knowledge of current and projected impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on the physical, chemical, and biological components and human uses of marine ecosystems under U.S. jurisdiction. One of a series of technical inputs for the third National Climate Assessment (NCA) conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, it also assesses efforts to prepare for and adapt to climate and acidification impacts on ocean ecosystems across

Executive Summary

The United States (U.S.) is an ocean nation; our past, present and future are inextricably connected to and dependent on oceans and marine resources. Marine ecosystems under U.S. jurisdiction extend from the shore to 200 nautical miles seaward, include waters around U.S. Territories, and span 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean, an area re- ferred to as the U.S. exclusive economic zone (NMFS, 2009a), which is an area 1.7 times the land area of the continental U.S.. This area encompasses an incredible diversity of species and habitats as well as 11 different large marine ecosystems (LMEs) that provide many important services, including jobs, food, transportation routes, recreational op- portunities, health benefits, climate regulation, and cultural heritages that affect people, communities, and economies across America and internationally every day.

U.S. marine ecosystems and services are increasingly at risk from climate change and other human pressures. A wealth of information documents strong linkages between the planet’s climate and ocean systems as well as changes in the climate system that can pro- duce dramatic changes in the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of ocean ecosystems on a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Additionally, a growing body of literature provides evidence of the current impacts of increasing atmospheric carbon di- oxide and the associated global warming and ocean acidification on physical, chemical, and biological components of ocean ecosystems. Conversely, relatively little information shows how these climate-driven changes in ocean ecosystems may impact ocean ser- vices and uses, although it is predicted that the vulnerability of ocean-dependent users, communities, and economies increases in a changing climate. In addition, non-climatic stressors resulting from a variety of human activities, including pollution, fishing im- pacts, and over-use, can interact with and exacerbate impacts of climate change. Collec- tively, climatic and non-climatic pressures on marine ecosystems are having profound and diverse impacts that are expected to increase in the future.

Based on current understanding of these linkages between the planet’s climate and ocean systems as well as projections of future changes in the global climate system, the marine ecosystems under U.S. jurisdiction and U.S. interest internationally are likely to continue to be affected by anthropogenic-driven climate change and rising levels of atmospheric CO2. These impacts are set in motion through a collection of changes in the ocean’s physical (e.g., temperature, circulation, stratification, upwelling), chemical (e.g., acidification, nutrient input, oxygen content), and biological (e.g., primary production, species distributions, phenology, foodweb structure, community composition and eco- system functions/services) components and processes. Given the value and U.S. depen- dence on ocean products and ecosystem services found in U.S. and international ocean ecosystems, these climate-driven changes are likely to have significant implications for U.S ocean uses and international activities as well as the communities and economies that depend on them. Effectively responding to these challenges requires mitigating the pace and scope of climate change through concerted efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and protect and enhance those natural environments that act as car- bon sinks as well as helping species, ecosystems, and the societies that depend on them to adapt to the changes we can no longer avoid.This report was produced by a team of experts as a contribution to the third National Climate Assessment (NCA), conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The report provides an assessment of scientific knowl- edge of the current and projected impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on the physical, chemical, and biological components and human uses of marine ecosys- tems under U.S. jurisdiction. It also provides assessment of the international implica- tions for the U.S. due to climate impacts on ocean ecosystems and of efforts to prepare for and adapt to climate and acidification impacts on ocean ecosystems.

U.S marine ecosystems are inherently connected to U.S. coastal and terrestrial areas through the flow of water from land to sea, the effect of oceans on the physical climate system, the connectivity and movement of species, and the extensive and diverse uses of marine resources and services that occur throughout the Nation. Therefore, climate impacts on oceans and marine resources intersect with many regions and sectors that are also considered in the NCA.