Adapting to Climate Change: Guidance for protected area managers and planners

John E. Gross, Stephen Woodley, Leigh A. Welling, and James E.M. Watson
Posted on: 9/19/2018 - Updated on: 8/23/2022

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Climate change response can be divided into “mitigation” (actions that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere) and “adaptation” (an adjustment by human or natural systems to the changing climate). Protected area managers must do all that they can to enhance the ability of natural systems to capture and store carbon and to reduce emissions from protected area operations. But the primary focus of these guidelines is on adaptation. The world’s climate is changing rapidly and protected areas are an increasingly important component of national and international climate change adaptation strategies. These guidelines articulate essential elements for adaptation planning and implementation, and it describes additional resources that site managers can use right away. The chapters and associated best practices generally follow these steps. 

Step 1: Build a Strong Foundation that involves assembling available knowledge and resources, planning for change, and developing a long-term capacity for informed, flexible management.

Step 2: Assess Vulnerability and Risk means undertaking quantitative or qualitative analyses to determine which species, ecosystems, and other values are most vulnerable to changing conditions, and identifying the key vulnerabilities that pose the greatest risk to achieving conservation goals.

Step 3: Identify and Select Adaptation Options emphasizes the need for structured approaches to recognize and prioritize strategic and tactical actions to achieve short and long term adaptation goals in protected areas.

Step 4: Implement Actions is where the protected area takes action based on all of the previous analysis and deliberation.

Step 5: Monitor and Adjust, the protected area managers and their staff measure indicators of success and failure and use that information to evaluate and recalibrate their decisions.