Changing Climate, Changing Wildlife: A CCVI Assessment of 400 Fish and Wildlife in Michigan
Michigan’s climate has been warming, and the warming trend is accelerating. The best available science indicates the acceleration is likely to continue, and warming in the next 40 years will be roughly 10 times as fast as the warming over the past 100 years in Michigan. Michigan wildlife face myriad conservation challenges, including land use change and habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, competition from invasive exotic species, altered ecological processes, and a rapidly changing climate. This report focuses on the effect of a rapidly changing climate.In 2010, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) received funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Management Program to assess vulnerability of 180 animal and plant species in the coastal zone using the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) developed by NatureServe. MNFI assessed a total of 198 species including 131 animal species and 67 plant species. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Division used State Wildlife Grants and Pittman-Robertson funds to assess vulnerability of 281 animal species using the same methods. Twelve animal species were assessed by both MNFI and the Michigan DNR. All resident terrestrial game species and all Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) (with enough life history data) were assessed. Vulnerable species are those expected to experience reductions in range extent or abundance by 2050 due to climate change.The CCVI analysis suggests that 17% of terrestrial game species and 61% of terrestrial and aquatic Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) are vulnerable. Other conservation threats or programs aside, these species will likely experience range or population reductions due to climate change. Vulnerable species included important game species, such as moose (Alces americanus), American marten (Martes americana), snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), and ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus). Vulnerable SGCN include conservation icons, such as the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) and common loon (Gavia immer). The full list of species’ vulnerabilities is in the Appendices.Other vulnerability analyses suggest that ecological communities in Michigan will change dramatically as species respond individually. Some characteristic northern species, such as spruce, fir, and birch may fade from the landscape. Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) is predicted not to regenerate and compete with the same health and vigor in a warmer and drier Michigan. Other species, such as red maple (Acer rubrum) and some oaks (Quercus spp.) and hickories (Carya spp.), are expected to do better in a warming climate. This analysis focuses on vulnerabilities of individual species, independent of changes in habitat or competitive interactions.The CCVI predicts the strength and direction of the influence of a changing climate. Management action (or inaction) can offset or reinforce the climate influence. The CCVI is a useful first step in climate adaptation, but it is only one tool to use to develop climate adaptive management plans for species or habitats. Initial suggestions of management actions are provided to help managers begin thinking about how these adaptive plans can be formulated. However, adaptation (e.g., climate-smart management) will need to be context specific; it will depend on existing management goals, priorities, funds, and local site conditions.