National Climate Adaptation Strategy for Fish, Wildlife and Plants


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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), State, and tribal partners, are proud to present the final National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy provides a roadmap of key steps needed over the next five years to reduce the current and expected impacts of climate change on our natural resources. The strategy is the product of extensive national dialogue that spanned nearly two years and was shaped by comments from more than 55,000 Americans.

National Climate Adaptation Strategy for Fish, Wildlife and Plants

  1. 1. National Fish, Wildlife and Plants about this report acknowledgementClimate Adaptation Strategy This report was produced by an inter- This Strategy was produced by anCopyright © 2012 governmental working group of federal, state, intergovernmental working group of federal, and tribal agency representatives at the state and tribal agency professionals whoseRecommended citation request of the U.S. Government. Therefore, expertise, knowledge and dedication brought the report is in the public domain. Some the report to completion (see Appendix E). TheNational Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate materials used in the report are copyrighted Strategy would not have been possible withoutAdaptation Partnership. and permission was granted to the U.S. the research, monitoring and assessment2012. Government for their publication in this activities of the nation’s scientific community report. For subsequent uses that include on natural resource conservation in a changingNational Fish, Wildlife and Plants such copyrighted materials, permission climate. The Strategy also benefited greatlyClimate Adaptation Strategy. for reproduction must be sought from the from input from a variety of non-governmentalAssociation of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, copyright holder. In all cases, credit must be organizations and the public.Council on Environmental Quality, Great Lakes given for copyrighted materials.Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, NationalOceanic and Atmospheric Administration, For more information, contact :and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Mark ShafferWashington, DC. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 703-358-2603Cover credits: Children in woods, Steve Roger GriffisHillebrand. Horse-eye jacks, National Oceanic National Oceanic and Atmosphericand Atmospheric Administration. Painted Hills, AdministrationJane Pellicciotto. Pelican, George Andrejko/ roger.b.griffis@noaa.govArizona Game and Fish Department. 301-427-8134Design and layout: Jane Pellicciotto/ ARPITA CHOUDHURYAllegro Design Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies achoudhury@fishwildlife.orgThis publication is printed on FSC-certified 202-624-5853paper in the United States. DISCLAIMERISBN: 978-1-938956-00-3 This Strategy is not a final agency action subject to judicial review, nor is it considered aDOI: 10.3996/082012-FWSReport-1 rule. Nothing in this report is meant to affect the substantive or legal rights of third parties or bind government agencies.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.comPhoto creditscover: Children in woods, Steve Hillebrand.Horse-eye jacks, National Oceanic and AtmosphericAdministration. Painted Hills, Jane Pellicciotto.Pelican, George Andrejko/Arizona Game andFish Department
  2. 2. National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy authors National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Partnership
  3. 3. Inside The purpose of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy is to inspire noaa and enable natural resource administrators, CH.2 Impacts of 19 elected officials, and other decision makers Climate Change & Ocean Acidification to take action to adapt to a changing climate. 2.1 GHG-induced Changes 19 Adaptation actions are vital to sustaining the to the Climate and Ocean 2.2 Existing Stressors on Fish, 21 nation’s ecosystems and natural resources —   Wildlife, and Plants as well as the human uses and values that 2.3 Climate Change Impacts 25 on Fish, Wildlife, and Plants the natural world provides. 2.3.1 Forest Ecosystems 31 2.3.2 Shrubland Ecosystems 33 2.3.3 Grassland Ecosystems 33 2.3.4 Desert Ecosystems 34 Paul Sundberg 2.3.5 Arctic Tundra Ecosystems 36gary wise 2.3.6 Inland Water Ecosystems 39 Preface 1 CH.1 About the 7 2.3.7 Coastal Ecosystems 42 Strategy 2.3.8 Marine Ecosystems 47 1.1 A Broad National Effort 7 2.4 Impacts on Ecosystem 51 1.2 Origins and Development 8 Services 1.3 The Case for Action 9gary wise 1.3.1 The Climate is Changing 9 Executive Summary 2 1.3.2 Impacts to Fish, Wildlife, and Plants 11 1.3.3 Ecosystem Services 12 1.3.4 Adaptation to Climate Change 14 1.4 Purpose, Vision, and 17 Guiding Principles 1.5 Risk and Uncertainty 18 ii | National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
  4. 4. USFWS/Joshua Winchellusfws CH.3 Climate 53 CH.4 Opportunities 79 Resources 93 Adaptation Goals, for Multiple Sectors Literature Cited 93 Strategies & Actions 4.1 Agriculture 81 Appendix A: 103 GOAL 1: Conserve habitat to support 55 4.2 Energy 83 Supporting Materials healthy fish, wildlife, and plant populations and ecosystem functions Ecosystem-Specific Background Papers 103 4.3 Housing and Urbanization 84 in a changing climate. Related Resources, Reports, and 103 4.4 Transportation and 86 Materials GOAL 2: Manage species and habitats 60 Infrastructure to protect ecosystem functions and provide sustainable cultural, subsistence, Appendix B: Glossary 105 4.5 Water Resources 86 recreational, and commercial use in Appendix C: Acronyms 108 a changing climate. GOAL 3: Enhance capacity for effective 63 Appendix D: Scientific Names 109 management in a changing climate. Appendix E: Team Members 110 GOAL 4: Support adaptive 67 management in a changing climate usfws through integrated observation and monitoring and use of decision support tools. CH.5 Integration & 88 GOAL 5: Increase knowledge and 71 Implementation information on impacts and responses of fish, wildlife, and plants to a changing 5.1 Strategy Integration 88 climate. 5.2 Strategy Implementation 90 GOAL 6: Increase awareness and 74 motivate action to safeguard fish, wildlife, and plants in a changing climate. GOAL 7: Reduce non-climate stressors 76 night sky : Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to help fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems adapt to a changing climate. Inside the Strategy | iii
  5. 5. Preface Our climate is changing, and these changes are already impacting the nation’s valuable natural resources and the people, communities, and economies that depend on them.6 | National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
  6. 6. These impacts are expected to increase with continued changes in the planet’s climate system, putting many of the nation’s valuable natural resources at risk. Action is needed now to reduce these impacts (including reducing the drivers of climate change) and help sustain the natural resources and ser vices the nation depends on. T he observed changes in climate have been attributed to the increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other that can be taken, or at least initiated, over the next five to ten years in the context of the changes to our climate that Because the development of this adapta- tion Strategy will only be worthwhile if it leads to meaningful action, it is directly greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmo- are already occurring, and those that are aimed at several key groups: natural sphere, which have set in motion a series projected by the end of the century. It is resource management agency leaders and of changes in the planet’s climate system. designed to be a key part of the nation’s staff (federal, state, and tribal); elected Far greater changes are inevitable not larger response to a changing climate, officials in both executive and legisla- only because emissions will continue, but and to guide responsible actions by tive government branches (federal, state, also because CO2 stays in the atmosphere natural resource managers, conservation local, and tribal); leaders in industries for a long time. Even if further GHG partners, and other decision makers at that depend on and can impact natural emissions were halted today, alterations all levels. The Strategy was produced by resources, such as agriculture, forestry, already underway in the Earth’s climate federal, state, and tribal representatives and recreation; and private landowners, will last for hundreds or thousands of and has been coordinated with a variety whose role is crucial because they own years. If GHG emissions continue, as is of other climate change adaptation efforts more than 70 percent of the land in the currently more likely, the planet’s average at national, state, and tribal levels. United States. temperature is projected to rise by 2.0 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of The overarching goal of the The Strategy should also be useful for the century, with accompanying major decision makers in sectors that affect Strategy is a simple one: changes in extreme weather events, natural resources (such as agriculture, to inspire, enable, and increase energy, urban development, transporta- variable and/or inconsistent weather patterns, sea level rise, and changing meaningful action that helps tion, and water resource management), ocean conditions including increased safeguard the nation’s natural for conservation partners, for educators, acidification. resources in a changing climate. and for the interested public, whose input and decisions will have major impacts on Safeguarding our valuable living The overarching goal of the Strategy safeguarding the nation’s living resources resources in a changing climate for is a simple one: to inspire, enable, and in the face of climate change. The Strategy current and future generations is a increase meaningful action that helps also should be useful to those in other serious and urgent problem. Addressing safeguard the nation’s natural resources countries dealing with these same issues the problem requires action now to in a changing climate. Admittedly, the and those dealing with the international understand current impacts, assess future task ahead is a daunting one, especially if dimensions of climate adaptation. risks, and prepare for and adapt to a the world fails to make serious efforts to changing climate. This National Fish, reduce emissions of GHGs. But we can Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation make a difference. To do that, we must Strategy (hereafter Strategy) is a call to begin now to prepare for a future unlike action–a framework for effective steps the recent past.U SFW S Preface | 1
  7. 7. gary wise Executive Summary Fish, wildlife, and plants provide jobs, food, clean water, storm protection, health benefits and many other important ecosystem ser vices that support people, communities and economies across the nation ever y day. The obser ved changes in the climate are already impacting these valuable resources and systems. These impacts are expected to increase with “...develop a national, continued changes in the planet’s climate system. government-wide strategy to Action is needed now to help safeguard these natural address climate impacts on fish, wildlife, plants, and associated resources and the communities and economies that ecological processes.” depend on them. —Department of the Interior, Environment, M and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 easurements unequivocally show on natural environments and the vital that average surface air tempera- services they provide. tures in the United States have risen two degrees Fahrenheit (°F) over the last Faced with a future climate that will 50 years. The science strongly supports be unlike that of the recent past, the the finding that the underlying cause nation has the opportunity to act now of these changes is the accumulation of to reduce the impacts of climate change heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) and on its valuable natural resources and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the resource-dependent communities and atmosphere. If GHG emissions continue businesses. Preparing for and addressing unabated, the planet’s average tempera- these changes in the near term can help ture is projected to rise by an additional increase the efficiency and effectiveness 2.0 to 11.5 °F by the end of the century, of actions to reduce negative impacts with accompanying increases in extreme and take advantage of potential benefits weather events, variable and/or incon- from a changing climate (climate adap- sistent weather patterns, sea levels and tation). In 2009, Congress recognized other factors with significant impacts the need for a national government- 2 | National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
  8. 8. wide climate adaptation strategy for fish, and other decision makers to take efforts internationally to build resil-wildlife, plants, and ecosystems, asking effective steps towards climate change ience and adaptation for species thatthe Council on Environmental Quality adaptation over the next five to ten years. migrate and depend on areas beyond(CEQ) and the U.S. Department of the Federal, state, and tribal governments U.S. borders. Finally, given the size andInterior (DOI) to develop such a strategy. and conservation partners are encour- urgency of the challenge, we must beginCEQ and DOI responded by assembling aged to read the Strategy in its entirety acting unprecedented partnership of federal, to identify intersections between thestate, and tribal fish and wildlife conser- document and their mission areas andvation agencies to draft the document. activities.More than 90 diverse technical, scientific, Climate Changeand management experts from across the The Strategy is guided by nine principles. Impacts on Naturalcountry participated in drafting the These principles include collaboratingtechnical content of the document. across all levels of government, working Systems with non-government entities such asThe result is The National Fish, Wildlifeand Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy private landowners and other sectors like agriculture and energy, and engaging the T he Strategy details the current and expected future impacts of climate change on the eight major ecosystem(hereafter Strategy). The Strategy is the public. It is also important to use the best types in the United States (Chapter 2).first joint effort of three levels of govern- available science—and to identify where For example, warmer temperaturesment (federal, state, and tribal) that have science and management capabilities and changing precipitation patterns areprimary authority and responsibility for must be improved or enhanced. When expected to cause more fires and morethe living resources of the United States adaptation steps are taken, it is crucial pest outbreaks, such as the mountainto identify what must be done to help to carefully monitor actual outcomes in pine beetle epidemic in western forests,these resources become more resilient, order to adjust future actions to make while some types of forests will displaceadapt to, and survive a warming climate. them more effective, an iterative process what is now tundra. Grasslands andIt is designed to inspire and enable called adaptive management. We must shrublands are likely to be invaded bynatural resource managers, legislators, also link efforts within the U.S. with non-native species and suffer wetland losses from drier conditions, which would decrease nesting habitat for water-Global Temperature and Carbon Dioxide Global annual fowl. Deserts are expected to get hotter 400 average and drier, accelerating existing declines58.5°F temperature from in species like the Saguaro cactus. 380 1901–2000, indicating a clear long-term Climate change is expected to be C O 2 CO N CE NT RAT I ON ( P P M ) 36058.0°F global warming especially dramatic in the Arctic. trend. Orange Temperature increases in northern 340 bars indicate Alaska would change tussock tundra temperatures into shrublands, leading to increased fire57.5°F 320 above and blue risk. In addition, the thawing of frozen bars indicate temperatures organic material in soils would release 300 below the average. huge amounts of GHGs, contributing to57.0°F The black line climate change. In coastal and marine 280 shows atmospheric areas, the loss of sea ice and changing carbon dioxide ocean conditions are threatening key56.5°F 260 (CO2) concentration 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000 in parts per species such as walrus, ice seals and polar million (ppm). bears as well as the lifestyles and subsis-sour ce: us gcrp 2 0 0 9 . Gl obal Cl i m at e Ch a n g e I m pa c t s i n t h e U n i t e d S tat e s . tence economics of indigenous peoples. Executive Summar y | 3
  9. 9. Executive SummaryRivers, streams, and lakes face higher areas (including refugia and corridorstemperatures that harm coldwater Climate Change of habitat that allow species to migrate),species like salmon and trout, while sea and areas where habitat restoration canlevel rise threatens coastal marshes and Adaptation Strategies promote resiliency and adaptation ofbeaches, which are crucial habitats for and Actions species and ecosystem functions.many species, such as the diamondbackterrapin and the piping plover. T he Strategy describes steps that can be taken to address these impacts and help conserve ecosystems and make them In addition to traditional habitat restora- tion and protection efforts, this StrategySince water can absorb CO2 from the air, envisions innovative opportunities for more resilient (Chapter 3). Proposedthe rising levels of the gas in the atmo- creating additional habitat. For example, strategies and actions along with check-sphere and accompanying absorption the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists to monitor progress are organizedinto the oceans have caused ocean waters (USDA) works with farmers and ranchers under seven major goals in the Strategy:to become 30 percent more acidic since to cost-share conservation practices that1750. Acidification is already affecting 1 | Conserve and connect habitat benefit at-risk, threatened, or endan-the reproduction of organisms such as gered species, such as the lesser prairieoysters. As the pH of seawater continues 2 | Manage species and habitats chicken. These efforts may be useful into drop, major impacts on aquatic ecosys- responding to climate change as well as 3 | Enhance management capacitytems and species are expected. other existing conservation challenges. 4 | Support adaptive management Similarly, adjusting rice farming practices in Louisiana could provide valuable new 5 | Increase knowledge and information resources for a variety of waterfowl and 6 | Increase awareness and motivate shorebirds whose habitat is now disap- action pearing because of wetland loss and sea level rise. 7 | Reduce non-climate stressors It is also possible to use applied manage- Many proposed actions describe types of ment to make habitats and species conservation activities that management more resistant to climate change so agencies have traditionally undertaken they continue to provide sustainable but that will continue to be useful in a cultural, subsistence, recreational, and period of climate change. Other actions commercial uses. For example, managing are designed specifically to respond to stream corridors to preserve functional the new challenges posed by climate processes and reconnect channels with U SFWS/ Jo el Garl ich- Mi lle r change. well-vegetated floodplains may help to ensure a steady supply of ground- An extremely important approach for water recharge that maintains coldwater helping fish, wildlife, and plants adapt species even when air temperatures rise. to climate change is conserving enough Loss of arctic ice means loss of valuable Floodplains serve as vital hydrologic suitable habitat to sustain diverse and habitat for many marine species. capacitors, and may become even more healthy populations. Many wildlife important in many parts of the country refuges and habitats could lose some of as more precipitation falls as rain instead their original values, as the plants and of snow. Protecting and restoring stream animals they safeguard are forced to habitats to maintain more narrow and move into more hospitable climes. As a deep stream beds and riparian shade result, there is an urgent need to identify cover can also help keep water tempera- the best candidates for new conservation tures cool in a warming climate.4 | National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
  10. 10. Climate change adaptation requires Reducing existing stressors on of ecosystem services provided by well-new ways of assessing information, new fish, wildlife, and plants may functioning ecosystems also are tools and professional skills, For example, there may be fewer salmon be one of the most effective,increased collaboration across jurisdic- for commercial and recreational harvest, and doable, ways to increase as well as for traditional ceremonial andtions, and review of laws, regulations,and policies to ensure effectiveness resilience to climate change. cultural practices of indigenous a changing world. Climate changeimpacts are occurring at scales much It will frequently be difficult to predict Adaptation efforts will be most successfullarger than the operational scope of indi- how individual species and ecosystems if they have broad support and if keyvidual organizations and agencies, and will react to climate change. Adaptation groups are motivated to take actionsuccessful adaptation demands strong in the face of uncertain impacts requires themselves. Efforts to increase aware-collaboration among all jurisdictions. coordinated observation and monitoring, ness and motivate action should beLandscape Conservation Cooperatives information management and decision targeted toward elected officials, public(LCCs), migratory bird and other Joint support systems, and a commitment and private decision makers, groups thatVentures (JVs), National Fish Habitat to adaptive management approaches. are interested in learning more aboutPartnerships (NFHPs), and other existing Coordinated information management climate change, private landowners, andand emerging partnerships are useful systems, such as the National Ecological natural resource user groups. Engagingvehicles to promote diverse collabo- Observatory Network and the Integrated these stakeholders early and repeatedly toration across larger scales. Because of Ocean Observing System, that link and increase awareness of climate change, tothe dependence of Native Americans, make available the data developed by develop integrated adaptation responses,Alaska Natives and other groups on their separate agencies or groups have a crit- and to motivate their participation is keynatural resources for their economic ical role to play in increasing access to to making this Strategy work.and cultural identity, climate change and use of this information by resourceis a threat not only to those natural managers, planners, and decision makers. Reducing existing stressors on fish, wild-resources, but also to the traditions, the Vulnerability assessments are key steps life, and plants may be one of the mostculture, and ultimately, the very health of to help managers develop and prioritize effective, and doable, ways to increasethe communities themselves. Indigenous adaptation efforts and inform manage- resilience to climate change. Manycommunities possess traditional ecolog- ment approaches. existing non-climate stressors may beical knowledge (TEK) and relationships exacerbated by climate change. In partic-with particular resources and homeland Additional research and modeling efforts ular, avoiding, reducing and addressingareas, accumulated through thousands are needed to increase knowledge about the ongoing habitat degradation (e.g.,of years of history and tradition, which the specific impacts of climate change pollution, loss of open space) associ-make them highly sensitive to, and on fish, wildlife, plants, and habitats and ated with human development is criticalaware of, environmental change. Alaska their adaptive capacity to respond. The and requires collaboration with land-useprovides an excellent example of not use of models has already produced valu- planners and private land owners. Takingonly how TEK can be successfully inte- able information for planning for climate steps to reduce stressors not related tograted into management activities, but change impacts, and more refined climate, such as fighting invasive speciesalso how this knowledge can be collected, models at temporal and spatial scales like water hyacinth, can help naturalused, and protected in a respectful and appropriate to adaptation are required. systems cope with the additional pres-culturally-sensitive manner, benefitting Methods to objectively quantify the value sures imposed by a changing climate.both indigenous and non-indigenouscommunities. Executive Summar y | 5
  11. 11. Executive Summary of adaptation and conservation efforts Integration and and programs (Chapter 5) at local, state, regional and national levels. Examples Implementation include the U.S. Global Change Research T he Strategy emphasizes that actions to help fish, wildlife, plants, and natural systems adapt to climate change can Program (USGCRP), which produces the National Climate Assessment (NCA) every four years; the Interagency Climate be coordinated with measures taken in Change Adaptation Task Force (ICCATF) other sectors, such as agriculture, energy, that provides a venue to communicate water, and transportation, to increase and help coordinate U.S. federal agency the benefits for all sectors (Chapter 4). adaptation efforts; State Wildlife Action One example of an action that benefits Plans; EPA regional initiatives such as multiple sectors and ecosystems is better the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; management of stormwater runoff, and the work of the LCCs. Implementing which not only reduces risks of flooding the Strategy will require coordination in cities, but also reduces the threat that and collaboration among these and toxic algal blooms will affect aquatic many other entities. The Strategy calls ecosystems. for creation of a coordination body to oversee its implementation and engage The Strategy is designed to build upon with conservation partners. and complement the growing number The Strategy is a call to action. We can take effective action to reduce risks and increase resiliency of valuable natural resources. Unless the nation begins a serious effort to undertake this task now, we risk losing priceless living systems — and the benefits and services they provide — as the climate changes.usfws 6 | National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
  12. 12. Paul Sundberg CH.1 About the Strategy The purpose of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (hereafter Strategy) is to inspire and enable natural resource administrators, elected officials, and other decision makers to take action to help the nation’s valuable natural resources and people that depend on them adapt to a changing climate. The Strategy identifies major The Strategy focuses on preparing for goals and outlines strategies 1.1 A Broad National and reducing the most serious impacts of climate change and related non-climate and actions needed to attain Effort stressors on fish, wildlife, and plants. It those goals. A daptation actions are vital to sustaining the nation’s ecosystems and natural resources—as well as the places priority on addressing impacts for which there is enough information to recommend sensible actions that can human uses and values that the natural be taken or initiated over the next five world provides. The Strategy explains the to ten years in the context of climate challenge ahead and offers a guide for change projections through the end of actions that can be taken now, in spite the century. Further, it identifies key of remaining uncertainties over how knowledge, technology, information, climate change will impact living and governance gaps that hamper resources. It further provides guidance effective action. While the Strategy on longer-term actions most likely to is focused on adaptation rather than promote natural resource adaptation to mitigation (or reduction) of GHGs, it climate change. Because climate adapta- includes approaches that may also have tion cuts across many boundaries, the mitigation benefits. Strategy also describes mechanisms to increase collaboration among all levels of The Strategy is not a detailed assessment government, conservation organizations, of climate science or a comprehensive and private landowners. report of the impacts of climate change on individual species or ecosystems; an abundant and growing literature on those About the Strategy | 7
  13. 13. About the Strategytopics already exists (IPCC AR4 2007, In order for the Strategy to be effec- adaptation of ecosystems and resourcesUSGCRP 2009, Parmesan 2006). It is tively implemented, progress should be (CCSP 2008c). In addition, a coalitionnot a detailed operational plan, nor does periodically evaluated and the Strategy of hunting and fishing organizationsit prescribe specific actions to be taken reassessed and updated through the published reports in 2008 and 2009 onby specific agencies or organizations, same sort of collaborative process as was the current and future impacts of climateor specific management actions employed in the production of this first change on fish and wildlife and calledfor individual species. Rather, this is effort. The Strategy calls for formation of for increased action to help sustain thesea broad national adaptation strategy: a coordinating body with representation resources in a changing climate (Wildlifeit identifies major goals and outlines from federal, state, and tribal govern- Management Institute 2008, 2009).strategies and actions needed to attain ments meet semi-annually to promotethose goals. It describes the “why, what, and evaluate implementation and to Congress asked CEQ and DOI to developand when” of what the nation must do to report progress annually. a national strategy to “…assist fish,assist our living resources to cope with wildlife, plants, and related ecologicalclimate change. The “who, where, and processes in becoming more resilient,how” of these strategies and actions must adapting to, and surviving the impactsbe decided through the many existing 1.2 Origin and of climate change” as part of the 2010collaborative processes for management Development Appropriations Bill for the Departmentplanning, decision-making, and action. of the Interior and Related AgenciesIn addition, the development ofstrategies and actions for this document O ver the past decade, there have been an increasing number of calls by government and non-governmental (U.S. Congress 2010). Acting for DOI, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servicewas not constrained by assumptions of (FWS) and CEQ then invited thecurrent or future available resources. entities for a national effort to better National Oceanic and AtmosphericThe implementation of recommended understand, prepare for and address the Administration (NOAA) and state wild-strategies and actions, and the alloca- impacts of climate change on natural life agencies, with the New York Statetion of resources towards them, are the resources and the communities that Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marineprerogative of the Strategy audience, depend on them. These calls helped lay Resources as their lead representa-(e.g., decision makers). the foundation for development of tive, to co-lead the development of the this Strategy. Strategy. In October of 2010, the ICCATFFederal, tribal, state, and local govern- endorsed the development of the Strategyments and conservation partners have For example, in 2007, the U.S. as a key step in advancing U.S. efforts toinitiated a variety of efforts to help Government Accountability Office adapt to a changing climate.1prepare for and respond to the impacts (GAO) released a study entitled “Climateof climate change on the nation’s natural Change: Agencies Should Develop A 22-person Steering Committee wasresources and the valuable services they Guidance for Addressing the Effects formed in January 2011, and includesprovide. This Strategy is designed to build on Federal Land and Water Resources,” representatives from 15 federal agen-on and assist these efforts across multiple recommending that guidance and tools cies with management authorities forscales and organizations. These entities be developed to help federal natural fish, wildlife, plants, or habitat, as wellare encouraged to identify areas of the resource managers address and incorpo- as representatives from five state fishStrategy that bear on their missions and rate climate change into their resource and wildlife agencies and two intertribalwork collaboratively with other organi- management efforts (GAO 2007). In commissions. The Committee chargedzations to design and implement specific 2008, the USGCRP released the report a small Management Team, includingactions to reduce the impacts of climate Preliminary Review of Adaptation Optionschange on fish, wildlife, and plants. for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and 1 See “Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Resources that called for and identi- Adaptation Task Force: Recommended Actions in fied new approaches to natural resource Support of a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. < management to increase resiliency and microsites/ceq/Interagency-Climate-Change-Adaptation- Progress-Report.pdf>8 | National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
  14. 14. Unless the nation begins a serious effort to undertake adaptation efforts now, we risk losing priceless living systems — and the benefits and services they provide — as the climate changes.representatives of the FWS, NOAA, theAssociation of Fish and Wildlife Agencies(AFWA, representing the states), andthe Great Lakes Indian Fish and WildlifeCommission, to oversee the day-to-day development of the Strategy. TheManagement Team was asked to engagewith a diverse group of stakeholders, aswell as to coordinate and communicateacross agencies and departments.In March of 2011, the Management Teaminvited more than 90 natural resourceprofessionals (both researchers andmanagers) from federal, state, and tribal Ryan Hagarty/usfwsagencies to form eight Technical Teams,each centered around a major U.S.ecosystem type. These Teams, which wereco-chaired by federal, state, and tribalrepresentatives, worked over the nexteight months to provide technical infor- »» Extreme events like heat waves andmation on climate change impacts and 1.3 The Case for Action regional droughts have become moreto collectively develop the strategies and frequent and intense;actions for adapting to climate change.The Management Team worked to iden- 1.3.1 The Climate is Changing »» Hurricanes in the Atlantic and easterntify and distill the primary approaches Pacific have gotten stronger in the pastcommon across ecosystems into the Measurements and observations show few decades; unequivocally that the Earth’s climate isseven overarching goals, discussed in »» Sea levels have risen eight inchesdetail in Chapter 3. currently in a period of unusually rapid globally over the past century and are change. The impacts of climate change climbing along most of our nation’s are occurring across the United States. coastline; For example: »» Cold season storm tracks are shifting »» Average air temperature has increased northward; two degrees Fahrenheit (°F) and precipitation has increased approxi- »» The annual extent of Arctic sea ice is mately five percent in the United States shrinking rapidly; and in the last 50 years; »» Oceans are becoming more acidic. »» Average global ocean temperatures have increased nearly 0.4°F since 1955; All of these changes have been well documented and described in the report: »» The amount of rain falling in the Global Climate Change Impacts in the heaviest storms is up 20 percent in the United States (USGCRP 2009), the last century, causing unprecedented primary scientific reference on climate floods; change science for this document. Moreover, the changes are harbingers of far greater changes to come. About the Strategy | 9
  15. 15. About the Strategy Observed Changes to Ecosystems and Species Species are shifting Different species are their geographic responding differently ranges, often moving to changes in climate, Shelley Ellis/NWF poleward or upwards leading to decou- in elevation. For pling of important instance, geese that ecological relation- formally wintered ships (Edwards and afwaThe science strongly supports the finding along the Missouri Richardson 2004).that the underlying cause of today’s River in Nebraska and South Dakota now seem For example, changes in phenology forrising temperatures, melting ice, shifting to migrate only as far south as North Dakota, Edith’s checkerspot butterfly are leading toweather, increasing ocean acidification to the dismay of waterfowl hunters (Wildlife mismatches with both caterpillar host plants Management Institute 2008). These shifts and nectar sources for adult butterflies,and other changes is the accumulation may also bring wildlife into more densely leading to population crashes in some areasof heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) (Parmesan 2006). populated human areas, creating situationsand other greenhouse gases (GHGs) of human-wildlife conflict. In addition, somein the atmosphere (IPCC AR4 2007, marine species are also shifting both locationUSGCRP 2009, NRC 2010). Because and depth (Nye et al. 2009). Habitat loss is increasing due toCO2 remains in the atmosphere for many ecological changesyears, CO2 that has already been emitted The phenology, such associated withwill continue to warm the Earth (and as spring blooming, climate change, john lyonscontribute to ocean acidification) for is changing (Post et such as sea leveldecades or centuries to come (Wigley al. 2001). This could rise, increased fire, affect whether or not pest outbreaks,2005). Meanwhile, GHG emissions bill lynch plants are success- novel weather patterns, or loss of glaciers.continue, increasing the concentra- fully pollinated (the For example, habitat for rainbow trout intions of these gases in the atmosphere. pollinators might come the southern Appalachians is being greatlyOur future climate will be unlike that of at the wrong time), or whether or not food is reduced as water temperatures risethe recent past. Traditional and proven available when needed. For example, in the (Flebbe et al. 2006).approaches for managing fish, wildlife, Rocky Mountains, the American robin (see Appendix D for a list of scientific names ofplants, ecosystems, and their human uses Declines in the species mentioned in the text) is now arrivingmay no longer be effective given the scale up to two weeks earlier than it did two decades populations ofand scope of climate-driven changes. ago. However, the date of snow melt has not species, from mollusks off the coast brome m c creary advanced, so food resources may be limited when the birds arrive (Inouye et al. 2000). of Alaska to frogs in Yellowstone, are being attributed to Since water absorbs climate change CO2, the oceans are (Maclean and Wilson 2011). becoming more acidic, affecting the reproduction The spread of of species such non-native species as oysters (Feely et as well as diseases, noaa al. 2008). The pH of pests, contaminants, seawater has decreased since 1750, and is and parasites are tim torrell projected to drop much more by the end of becoming more the century as CO2 concentrations continue common. For instance, to increase (USGCRP 2009). Although not warmer temperatures technically climate change, this additional are enabling a salmon parasite to invade impact of the accumulation of CO2 in the the Yukon River, causing economic harm to atmosphere is expected to have major impacts indigenous peoples and the fishing industry on aquatic ecosystems and species. (Kocan et al. 2004). Also, the increasing threats of wildlife diseases due to non-native species include diseases transmissible between animals and humans, which could negatively impact native species, domestic animals, and humans (Hoffmeister et al. 2010).10 | National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
  16. 16. Case Study Hotter summers threaten eastern brook trout Heat stress is the Chuck Krueger/Great Lakes Fishery Commission biggest threat to cold water fish species and brook trout are particularly sensitive.1.3.2 Impacts to Fish, Wildlife,and PlantsGiven the magnitude of the observedchanges in climate, it is not surprisingthat fish, wildlife, and plant resources inthe United States and around the worldare already being affected. The impactscan be seen everywhere from working The West Fork of the Kickapoo River amounts of cool groundwater sustain the in western Wisconsin is an angler’s para- stream’s baseflow in summer. This informa-landscapes like tree farms and pastures dise. Its cool, shaded waters and pools tion enables fisheries managers to focus onto wilderness areas far from human abound with native brook trout. But brook the streams and rivers that are at greaterhabitation (Parmesan 2006, Doney et trout require cold water to reproduce and risk from climate change and from changingal. 2012). Although definitively estab- survive—and water temperatures are land use that would decrease groundwaterlishing cause and effect in any specific already rising. By the end of this century, discharge rates. In some streams, thesecase can be problematic, the overall the self-sustaining population in the deteriorating conditions are unlikely to bepattern of observed changes in species’ West Fork could be gone. In fact, up to reversed.distributions and phenology (the timing 94 percent of current brook trout habitat in Wisconsin could be lost with a 5.4 °F In other streams, adaptation strategies canof life events) is consistent with biolo- increase in air temperature (Mitro et al. be implemented to reduce stream watergists’ expectations for a warming climate 2010). Although climate change has not temperatures such as planting trees and(Parmesan 2006, Doney et al. 2012). As caused the loss of any brook trout popula- other streambank vegetation for shade,the emissions of GHGs and the resulting tions to date, the warming effects on air or restoring stream channel morphologyclimate changes continue to increase in temperature is projected to significantly to reduce solar heating. For example,the next century, so too will the effects on reduce the current range of brook trout in managing stream corridors to preservespecies, ecosystems, and their functions the eastern United States. functional processes and reconnect chan- nels with well-vegetated floodplains may(USGCRP 2009). Human responses to The threat is not limited to Wisconsin or to help to ensure a steady supply of ground-the challenge of climate change will also brook trout. Climate change is viewed as water recharge that maintains coldwateraffect, perhaps substantially, the natural one of the most important stressors of species even when air temperatures Furthermore, climatic change and fish populations, and coldwater fish species Floodplains serve as vital hydrologic capaci-the human response to it are also likely to are especially susceptible to rising temper- tors, and may become even more importantexacerbate existing stressors like habitat atures. Declining populations would have in many parts of the country as moreloss and fragmentation, putting addi- serious ecological and economic conse- precipitation falls as rain instead of snow.tional pressure on our nation’s valued quences, since these fish are key sources of nutrients for many other species and Protecting and enhancing water infiltrationliving resources (USGCRP 2009). provide major fishing industries in the rates on land is another adaptation strategy Northeast, Northwest, and Alaska (Trout that can increase cooler groundwater Unlimited 2007). discharge rates during the critical summer low flow conditions. In some cases, adaptation measures may help reduce the threat. The first step is This “triage” stream assessment approach measuring stream water temperatures and is similar to how accident or battlefield flow rates to identify which trout habitats responders work, where efforts are focused are at greatest risk. Monitoring efforts on those most likely to respond to treat- have already shown that some trout ment. Thus, limited funding is directed streams are at lower risk because they toward streams that are at higher risk from have water temperatures far below lethal the effects of rising temperatures, and on limits, while other streams are not likely to streams where adaptation actions are more see increases in water temperatures even likely to have a positive impact. when air temperatures rise, since adequate Section Name | 11
  17. 17. About the Strategy1.3.3 Ecosystem ServicesNatural systems are of fundamental valueand benefit to people. Natural environ-ments provide enormously valuable, butlargely unaccounted for, services that no a asupport people as well as other species(NRC 2004, NRC 2012, PCAST 2011). Natural environments provide enormouslyThe materials and processes that ecosys- The continuance or growth of these types valuable services and goods that benefittems produce that are of value to people humans and other species. of economic activities is directly relatedare known as “ecosystem services” and to the extent and health of our nation’scan be organized into four general ecosystems and the services they provide. saltwater fishing trips occurred alongcategories (Millennium Ecosystem U.S. coasts, generating $50 billion in salesAssessment 2005): Natural resources provide a wide variety impacts and supporting over 327,000»» Provisioning Services, including food, jobs (NMFS 2010). Aquatic habitat and of other types of benefits and services water, medicines, and wood. species conservation alone contributes to people and communities every day, over $3.6 billion per year to the economy many of which are not traded in markets»» Regulating Services, such as climate and are sometimes difficult to mone- regulation, flood suppression, disease/ in the U.S., and supports over 68,000 jobs (Charbonneau and Caudill 2010). tize. For example, forests help provide pest control, and water filtration. clean drinking water for many cities Americans and foreign visitors made»» Cultural Services, such as aesthetic, some 439 million visits to DOI-managed and towns. Coastal habitats such as spiritual, educational, and recreational lands in 2009. These visits (an example coral reefs, wetlands, and mangroves services. of a cultural service) supported over help protect people and communities 388,000 jobs and contributed over from storms, erosion, and flood damage»» Supporting Services, such as nutrient (DOI and DOC 2006, CCSP 2009a). cycling, soil formation, pollination, $47 billion in economic activity. For many people, quality of life depends and plant productivity. on frequent interaction with wildlife. The U.S. seafood industry— Others simply take comfort in knowingEconomic contributions of ecosystem most of which is based on wild, that the wildlife and natural places thatservices have been quantified in some free-ranging marine species— they know and love still survive, at leastareas. For example, hunting, fishing, annually supports approximately somewhere.and other wildlife-related recreationin the United States (an example of 1 million full-and part-time jobs. For many Native Americans and ruralprovisioning and cultural services) is Americans, wild species and habitats areestimated to contribute $122 billion to This economic output represents about central to their very cultural identitiesour nation’s economy annually (DOI and eight percent of the direct output of as well as their livelihoods. The animalsDOC 2006). The U.S. seafood industry— tourism-related personal consump- and plants that are culturally importantmost of which is based on wild, tion expenditures for the United States to these communities have values that arefree-ranging marine species—supported for 2009 and about 1.3 percent of the difficult to quantify and weigh in mone-approximately 1 million full-and part- direct tourism related employment (DOI tary terms; but this makes them no lesstime jobs and generated $116 billion in 2011). Every year, coastal habitats such valuable to people.sales impacts and $32 billion in income as coral reefs, wetlands, and mangrovesimpacts in 2009 (NMFS 2010). Marine help protect people, infra-structure andrecreational fishing also contributes to communities from storms, erosion, andcoastal areas as an economic engine; flood damage worth billions of dollarsin 2009, approximately 74 million (DOI and DOC 2006, CCSP 2009a).12 | National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy