~ Enhance Connectivity & Areas Under Protection

This strategy includes protecting adequate and appropriate space to allow for climate-induced shifts in species ranges and movements, and improving the management of existing protected areas and refugia,201 which may be at risk due to erosion and flooding caused by lake level changes and stronger storms in the region. Enhancing connectivity may support species’ natural adaptive responses, ecosystem function and resilience, and genetic exchange among populations202; measures include maintaining or establishing migration corridors to allow for range shifts and species movements. Managers and planners may decide to create new protected areas, increase the size and number of protected areas, or create networks of protected areas in order to facilitate connectivity.

Two entities in Chicago are prioritizing corridors and connectivity. Chicago Wilderness, an alliance of over 250 organizations committed to increasing and maintaining regional biodiversity, launched a Climate Change Task Force to recommend local adaptation and mitigation strategies. The Task Force produced the Climate Action Plan for Nature, which targets landscape connectivity as a means to enhance the resilience of local biodiversity; a specific strategy within the plan calls for the modeling of key stream connectivity areas and the strategic removal of barriers to enhance native aquatic species dispersal.203 The City of Chicago’s Natural Environment Adaptation Working Group is also prioritizing the protection and enhancement of connectivity and corridors.

The group created a guiding document, which lists the following strategies specific to enhancing connectivity:

  1. Expanding the Green Infrastructure Vision map204 in order to identify and prioritize key areas of connectivity
  2. Protecting buffers and open space
  3. Improving existing habitat on publicly-owned properties (e.g., parks, preserves) that act or may act as critical corridors
  4. Promoting potential expansion onto private lands (e.g., golf courses, residential yards)
  5. Restoring wetlands and other habitats that maximize connectivity.205

In Quebec, a group of researchers led by Laval University and the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Parks is creating a process for protected areas planning and management that includes the effects of climate change. The pilot areas are two regions along the St. Lawrence River – the Gaspésie and the Mauricie. Researchers are first examining ecosystem vulnerabilities in these areas under different climate scenarios; they then will analyze the adaptive capacity of the existing protected areas network to mitigate these vulnerabilities. The project will result in the development of tools to measure sensitivity and adaptive capacity of protected areas and project leads hope to develop support for the concept of multi-category protected areas as used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.206

Additionally, researchers from McGill University, Grenoble University, and Montreal University are engaged in a two-year project focused on developing ecological networks in the St. Lawrence River lowlands. Project participants are mapping spatial variation and productivity of forests to identify potential migration corridors that may be resilient to the impacts of climate change and land use pressures (e.g., agriculture, development). Ultimately, this project will provide interactive maps and other detailed information for use by the Quebec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Parks and Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife, as well as by local municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and scientists.207 In neighboring Ontario, the Ministry of Natural Resources is considering the means through which the establishment and management of protected areas could be focused on protecting the northern limits of species’ ranges in the province.208

201 Hansen & Hoffman 2010

202 Hansen & Hoffman 2010

203 Feifel 2012: The Chicago Wilderness Climate Action Plan for Nature

204 Chicago Green Infrastructure Vision Map.

205 Gregg & Hitt 2012: A Roadmap for Action: The Chicago Climate Action Plan

206 Adaptation of the Design and Management of Quebec's Network of Protected Areas for Climate Change.

207 Monteregie Connection, Designing Ecological Networks for Climate Change

208 Feifel, K. M. (2012). Adapting to Climate Change in Ontario Parks [Case study on a project of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012).