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

Molly Cross
Created: 10/28/2009 -


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.

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The Wildlife Conservation Society, founded in 1895, has the clear mission to save wildlife and wild places across the globe. Our story began in the early 1900’s when we successfully helped the American bison recover on the Western Plains.


Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Capacity Building
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Governance and Policy
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Species of concern