Administration Outlines Plan To Help Wildlife Adapt To Climate Change

On Tuesday, the Obama administration released the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Adaptation Strategy, a document that provides recommendations for the country to address the threats climate change poses to wildlife and natural resources.

The strategy, which was developed by federal, state and tribal leaders and is meant to be implemented over the next five years, highlights the observed impacts that increased atmospheric CO2 and a changing climate have had on the environment, including ocean acidification, changes in phenology, the spread of invasive species and the shifting of the geographic range of native species. It also lists seven non-binding goals that would help wildlife adapt to climate change. Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the list should serve as an “urgent call to action” for government officials.

Here are the priorities the strategy outlines:

  • Conserve habitat to support healthy fish, wildlife, and plant populations and ecosystem functions. Since many endangered and threatened species don’t occur naturally in already protected areas, the strategy aims to identify new areas to protect, keeping the effects climate change will have on species’ ranges in mind. Recommendations include: mapping and conserving high-priority conservation areas that are most likely to withstand the effects of climate change; developing natural corridors, such as tunnels and natural bridges, to allow species to move safely between key habitats; developing market-based incentives to encourage habitat restoration and conservation.
  • Update or develop species, habitat, and land and water management plans, programs and practices to consider climate change. Many agencies don’t take climate change into account when managing their natural resources, and the strategy aims to remedy that. Recommendations include: incorporating climate change effects into species and area management plans; protecting native seed sources by collecting and banking seeds.
  • Enhance capacity for effective management in a changing climate. Natural resource managers often lack a clear understanding of climate change, and most existing conservation laws and regulations weren’t developed to include possible effects of climate change. Recommendations include: identifying gaps in climate change knowledge among natural resource professionals; prioritizing funding for protection programs that incorporate climate change considerations; working with agricultural and business interests to identify impacts of climate change on crop production.
  • Support adaptive management through integrated observation and monitoring and use of decision support tools. The strategy aims to increase the knowledge of the impacts of climate change on natural resources and the effectiveness of mitigation actions. Recommendations include: Collaborating with the National Phenology Network to facilitate monitoring of seasonal plant and animal cycles; conducting risk assessments for priority species and habitats.
  • Increase knowledge and information on impacts and responses of fish, wildlife, and plants to a changing climate. Recommendations include: bringing managers and scientists together  to prioritize research needs; conducting research on establishing the value of ecosystem services and how climate change will impact communities; improving modeling of climate change impacts on vulnerable species.
  • Increase awareness and motivate action to safeguard fish, wildlife, and plants in a changing climate. The strategy aims to gain public interest and awareness of the effects climate change has on wildlife. Recommendations include: developing educational materials and teacher training for k-12 classrooms on impacts and responses to climate change; developing outreach efforts aimed at local, state, tribal, and federal government authorities, as well as business and cultural leaders.
  • Reduce non-climate stressors to help fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems adapt to a changing climate. Recommendations include: working with farmers to develop and implementing livestock management practices to reduce habitat degradation; implementing the 2011 National Bycatch Report recommendations to increase information of bycatch levels; determining and implementing sustainable harvest levels in a changing climate.

Climate change is already altering ecosystems throughout the world: warmer summers, for instance, mean crops like strawberries and tomatoes can now be grown on the Arctic Circle. It’s also threatening species’ survival, especially migratory species that depend on the cycles of bud burst and insect arrival to feed themselves and their young. A rare possum in Australia could soon be the continent’s first climate change-induced extinction, and one study found dozens of species of lizards could be extinct within the next 50 years due to climate change. But the adaptation strategy may present a chance to lessen these extinction risks; as the LA Times notes, efforts to protect wildlife and natural resources from climate change’s effects have not yet spurred the political backlash that other proposed actions have.

16 Responses to Administration Outlines Plan To Help Wildlife Adapt To Climate Change

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    I hope this comes out of Fish and Wildlife’s general fund. Expect Red State Congressmen to deny that we have a problem, and point to something like more deer and ducks somewhere, or a cold spell in the Northwest. At some point, denier Congressmen will try to delete this funding.

    The climate change adaptation office is going to have to be expanded soon. Shifts will occur suddenly, and at landscape scale. It’s not easy to mitigate nature, even when distorted by man’s activities, but we need to at least know what we’re up against.

  2. Leif says:

    A glaring missing piece of the solution is slowing and stopping the tax payer funding to the ecocide fossil Barons and others who actively work to retain the status quo of profits to the few from the pollution of the commons in the first place. Injustice ignored = Injustice condoned.

  3. Paul Klinkman says:

    First, the Obama Administration should admit its powerlessness to stop at least some amount of climate change. Some kind of 12-step program might get them through this critical admission.

    Once they get it, they’ll understand the imperative to freeze the fertilized egg cells of as many endangered species as possible in liquid nitrogen, to be brought back onto planet eaarth in the century after the great deluge is over, preserved, like the buffalo and like the California condor, from extinction forever.

    It remains for the administration to admit that if we burn all proven carbon reserves, most of the earth’s species are cooked and all of the zoos had better be indoor affairs.

  4. J4zonian says:

    It sounds like a good idea, as long as people don’t get the silly idea it will work or make anything better. Because as soon as they do, they’ll content themselves with trying to rebuild the Titanic after pulling it up from the bottom and ignore trying to not hit the iceberg. It ain’t the same.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s a pointless exercise, possibly greenwash. As you say, when the Thuggees gain control of Congress in 2014 it will be a program ritually strangled in its infancy. The whole idea of ‘adaptation’, while in principle worthy and desirable, simply presupposes and, in a way, normalises climate destabilisation. It may even tend to convince the public that climate destabilisation will merely be a nuisance to which we can adapt and adjust.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘I am become the iceberg, sinker of hopes’.

  7. Merrelyn Emery says:

    What on Earth is a non-binding goal? Is it a goal or not? ME

  8. Sasparilla says:

    A political “nice to have” that in the end doesn’t mean a whole heck of alot beyond the political value of the P.R. statement.

    Excellent question M.E..

  9. rjs says:

    apparently this is real and not a parody…

  10. rollin says:

    A guideline with no teeth, gumming the problem will not get any real action. If they kill off wolves and pollute the land and water, does anyone think that states will actually implement these recommendations? A little late in the game to be making nothing but noise.

  11. quokka says:

    I find this sort of comment decidedly unhelpful. There IS going to be (more) climate change, increased various other stresses on ecosystems and there IS almost universally a dire need for more areas under conservation management and better scientific knowledge to inform that management with a (scientific) eye on the effects of climate change.

    This does not imply that however this initiative pans out, it is sufficient or even anywhere near sufficient but that makes no difference to the need for much more conservation informed by conservation science with a (scientific) eye on the effects on climate change.

    Some sort of constant narrative of Apocalypse, with environmentalists shrugging off the responsibility for conservation on the grounds that it doesn’t matter so much because of impending doom doesn’t really help at all. There may no Apocalypse even at 4C or 5C warming – we just don’t know. But we do know with a very high degree of confidence that there is a remorseless grinding down of the quality of the biosphere. More conservation and better informed conservation efforts demand far more attention than they are getting.

  12. Merrelyn Emery says:

    You are absolutely right quokka and I know many are out there doing the science and breeding, and protecting endangered species back into vital populations. Anything that reaches the public and sparks a positive reaction is to be applauded but surely, this is not one of the best efforts and I wish there was more attention to those that have achieved success such as the Eastern Bettongs, ME

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Well quokka, I stand chastised, but not, I fear, corrected. While I really admire those doing their best to study the wonder and diversity of life before the sixth great extinction finishes its work, I cannot, I regret to say, see it as anything but hopeless. The apocalypse of life on this planet has been plain to see for decades. Nothing has changed. The planet is controlled by creatures of immense wickedness, cruelty and destructiveness. Humanity has proven itself unable to disempower that tiny fraction whose evil is destroying everything. I state this with great sorrow, but absolute conviction. Unless and until the destroyers are removed from power over the planet, once and for all, our fate is sealed. No amount of wishful thinking or appeals to the better natures of the decent and humane fraction of humanity, which I still believe to be a majority, albeit a disempowered and disenfranchised majority, will change our fate at all. And I really think that I ought to say so, in the hope that it helps wake up people to reality, or that someone shows me where I am wrong, with something more convincing that platitudes and hopeful good intentions. If the last seems too harsh, please forgive me, but I am growing daily more agitated at what I am witnessing as we hurtle towards total annihilation.

  14. BillD says:

    I’m on an NSF panel that will evaluate and rank proposals including quite on evolutionary adaptations of animals to changing temperatures including the amounts of phenotypic and genetic variability within and between populations. That being said, Many species populations cannot adapt to the speed and extent of temperature change, which is also causing widespread shifts in species’ ranges and changing competitive interactions. The other issue is that even though top scientists from around the country apply to NSF (National Science Foundation) only about 10-15% of proposals are funded and that was before the sequester.

  15. thad says:

    The best thing the government can do to help wildlife adapt to climate change is stop the Predator Control program.

  16. Allison says:

    This seems to be a decent plan to help protect wildlife in the coming years but there are issues being overlooked. Natural corridors will help species migrate but are not always easy to create. Sometimes the habitats are just too far apart to connect or are overbearingly expensive. The second strategy mentions agencies not taking climate change into account when managing natural resources. I think it should be required by all agencies to set up rules in order to conserve as much as possible and impact the environment as little as possible. There are many species that may not be able to adapt to climate change even if humans try to help them. The last paragraph states that some species of lizards may be extinct in 50 years due to climate change. This is a grim outlook of the future. These strategies are recommendations and guidelines but who will follow them? I believe we need the governments around the world to take a stand and require humans change their ways. Though, I have many doubts that anything like that will happen.