Buying Time: A User’s Manual to Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems

J.L. Biringer
Posted on: 9/08/2003 - Updated on: 2/27/2020

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CAKE Site Admin



As we stand at the beginning of the new millennium, the threats to nature and protected areas are unprecedented. While some progress has been made and strategies such as protected areas have been successful in preserving biodiversity in some places, new threats are arising. None of these threats is as great as global climate change and none will have such large implications for the way natural resource managers plan and implement conservation strategies.

While global climate change is seemingly difficult to understand and plan for, planning is essential, as the conservation approaches of the past may not work in an ever-changing warmer world. New strategies, led by deep cuts in the heat-trapping gases that causes climate change, predominately carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, may at least buy some time for ecosystems to adapt in the years and decades ahead. However, if CO2 emissions are not reduced quickly and deeply, some of those treasured ecosystems will not survive.

Climate change is happening now and nature is experiencing its impacts first. Whether one looks at coral reefs, mangroves, arctic areas or montane regions, climate change poses a complex and bewildering array of problems for ecosystems. The key question is, what can be done—in addition to the rapid reduction of CO2 emissions now—to increase the resiliency of these ecosystems to climate change?

WWF compiled “Buying Time: A User’s Manual for Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems” for natural resource managers who are ready to confront the impacts of climate change. While far from comprehensive, this manual brings together assessments and potential initial adaptation strategies for various biomes.

Written by experts, the manual addresses all of the major biomes with practical ideas of how to begin increasing the resiliency of ecosystems and plan our protected areas in response to the threat of climate change. Some of these strategies are in line with the conservation strategies we have been working on for years—reducing fragmentation, building corridors, reducing threats, and increasing resiliency in general. Natural resource managers in the field must begin planning to buy time for these biomes while the world works to switch from coal to clean power, a key strategy to reduce the causes of climate change.

Looking at the models and gathering empirical evidence, WWF is recommending that natural resource managers start now to build climate change adaptation strategies into their preservation philosophies and plans. This manual is a first step to assist managers in doing so.

While testing and implementing these new conservation strategies, managers should also communicate the threat that climate change poses to their biome to local, regional and national authorities. Resource managers have an important role to play in the climate change debate by using examples of changes seen in their regions as indicators of the need for rapid and deep cuts in CO2 emissions.


Biringer, J. L., Hansen, L., Hoffman, J. (2003). Buying Time: A User’s Manual to Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved by CAKE