~ Adaptation Projects and Programs in the Great Lakes Region

Climate change is a global problem that requires the development and implementation of robust management strategies that can help practitioners prepare for and respond to impacts. For the purposes of this report, we use the IPCC definition of adaptation – an “adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.”72 Adaptation actions are employed to avoid or take advantage of impacts either by decreasing vulnerability or increasing resilience.73,74

Approaches to adaptation include supporting resistance, resilience, or response of human and natural systems in the face of change. Resistance approaches include those actions that reduce the amount of change or increase the ability of systems to withstand change, while resilience approaches strive to improve the ability of systems to recover from change.75 Response actions focus on helping systems accommodate any changes that do occur.76 The challenge that climate change poses for practitioners is that the right answer at one time or place may not be the right answer at some other time or place; in fact, a whole range of options may be needed in order to limit the negative effects of climate change.

As adaptation theory and practice has gained traction over the last few years, literature has developed that examines guiding principles of adaptation. Another useful resource is EcoAdapt’s Climate Adaptation Starter Kit, which is a primer containing resources, tools, and adaptation examples to support practitioners new to the field.77

Adaptation Projects & Initiatives

This section presents examples and notable trends of over one hundred adaptation projects and initiatives throughout the Great Lakes region uncovered in this survey. We selected 57 projects to present as full case studies. These case studies can be found grouped by adaptation strategy by clicking on the four categories below, and by geographic region78 (click and scroll to the bottom).

Climate change adaptation activities may be grouped in a number of ways.79,80,81 In order to organize our findings for this survey, we grouped adaptation strategies as they relate to freshwater (and in some cases, at the freshwater/terrestrial interface) by the following categories – Capacity Building, Policy, Natural Resource Management and Conservation, and Infrastructure, Planning, and Development. Examples from the natural and built environments as they relate to freshwater resources are examined in both Capacity Building and Policy. We then present examples from natural systems in Natural Resource Management and Conservation and those focused on the built environment in Infrastructure, Planning, and Development.

  1. Capacity Building
    • Design or Reform Institutions
    • Conduct Research, Studies & Assessments
    • Conduct Training & Planning Exercises
    • Increase or Improve Public Awareness, Education & Outreach Efforts
    • Create or Enhance Resources & Tools
    • Monitor Climate Change Impacts & Adaptation Efficacy
  2. Policy
    • Develop & Implement Adaptation Plans
    • Create New or Enhance Existing Policies or Regulations
    • Develop & Implement Adaptive Management Strategies
  3. Natural Resource Management & Conservation
    • Incorporate Climate-Smart Guidelines into Restoration
    • Enhance Connectivity & Areas Under Protection
    • Reduce Local Climate or Related Change
    • Reduce Non-Climate Stressors Likely to Interact with Climate Change
  4. Infrastructure, Planning & Development
    • Make Infrastructure Resistant or Resilient to Climate Change
    • Community Planning (Developing Climate-Smart Communities)
    • Create or Modify Shoreline Management Measures
    • Develop Disaster Preparedness Plans & Policies

72 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2007). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., et al. (eds.)] (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). 996 pp.

73 Pew Center. (2009). Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change. Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Pew Center on the States.

74 Hansen, L.J. & J.R. Hoffman. (2010). Climate Savvy: Adapting Conservation and Resource Management to a Changing World. Island Press, Washington, D.C.

75 Gregg, R.M., L.J. Hansen, K.M. Feifel, J.L. Hitt, J.M. Kershner, A. Score, & J.R. Hoffman. (2011). The State of Marine and Coastal Adaptation in North America: A Synthesis of Emerging Ideas. EcoAdapt, Bainbridge Island, WA.

76 Millar, C.I., N.L. Stephenson, & S.L. Stephens. (2007). Climate change and forests of the future: managing in the face of uncertainty. Ecol. App. 17(8): 2145-2151.

77 EcoAdapt’s Climate Adaptation Starter Kit

78 These case studies will also be available on the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE). Within the database on CAKE, users can search and cross-reference different adaptation projects in a variety of ways, including by adaptation strategy type, taxonomic/habitat/sectoral focus, funding source(s), targeted impacts, and more.

79 Hansen, L. & J. Biringer. (2003). Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change. In: L.J. Hansen, J.L. Biringer, and J.R. Hoffman (eds.), Buying Time: A User’s Manual for Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems. World Wildlife Fund, Berlin, Germany.

80 Fischlin, A., G.F. Midgley, J.T. Price, R. Leemans, B. Gopal, C. Turley, M.D.A. Rounsevell, O.P. Dube, J. Tarazona, & A.A. Velichko. (2007). Ecosystems, their Properties, Goods, and Services. In: Climate change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds.). Cambridge, U.K. Cambridge University Press: 211-272.

81 Heinz Center. (2008). Strategies for Managing the Effects of Climate Change on Wildlife and Ecosystems. Washington, D.C.: The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. 43p.