Announcing New Projects Funded by the NE CASC

Monday, October 15, 2018
Photo Credit: NPS

NE CASC has awarded just over $650,000 to consortium institutions, universities and other partners for research to inform cultural and natural resource managers in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

The projects are:

Synthesis of current and future risks of climate change to wildlife health and identification of potential mitigation strategies

Climate change can affect the health of wildlife directly by affecting host-pathogen interactions, vector ranges or development rates, or pathogen development rates. Climate change can also affect wildlife health indirectly through shifting habitat characteristics that lead to overcrowding due to reduced resources or increased stress levels due to a mismatch in thermal tolerances of hosts. We will summarize existing literature on the impacts of climate change on wildlife health and conduct a workshop with DOI stakeholders and experts to develop research priorities for the next 3-5 years.  The ultimate goal is to develop adaptation strategies to protect natural resources from the impact of climate change.

Vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning for projected changes in water quality and quantity for protected areas in the Upper Mississippi watershed

Climate change and the extreme weather associated with it can be a major challenge to landowners and land managers interested in the protection, restoration, recovery, and management of wetlands and wildlife habitats. The Midwest is not only experiencing an increase in average temperatures and precipitation, but also an increase in the frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves and floods (Pryor et al. 2014). Forecasting the potential impacts of the changes over the next 25 to 50 years will be important for decision makers and landowners seeking to minimize the impacts to infrastructure and to the habitats themselves and prepare for the future. Changes in flood frequency threaten habitat management infrastructure and actions, while also conveying large loads of sediment and nutrients into sensitive habitats (Mallakpour and Villarini 2015). The combination of acute damage associated with flooding and chronic impacts of sedimentation and eutrophication threaten habitats and the species that depend upon them. For conservation lands like the National Wildlife Refuges, these threats undermine the mission of conservation of habitat and species for the enjoyment of the American people. We propose to develop a vulnerability assessment of watersheds and protected areas through synthesizing impacts of projected climate and land use (i.e., increased flooding, sedimentation and eutrophication). Further, we will work with resource managers in applying concepts of adaptive capacity to the management of specific protected areas. Our products will detail an approach whereby decision makers, landowners and land managers can consider options for modifying resource allocation, management strategies and/or changing infrastructure to ensure protection for trust resources in a changing environment.

Identifying and Evaluating Adaptation Science for Forest Habitats and Associated Bird Communities

The overall goals of this project are to identify the adaptation science needs of federal, state, and tribal stakeholders for forest habitats and to apply landscape simulation models to determine the effectiveness of existing and proposed adaptation strategies at sustaining forest-dependent bird species across the region. This project leverages existing stakeholder partnerships, including with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service, to characterize key research gaps related to forest adaptation science and inform co-development of future research agendas for the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (NE CASC) and other partners. In addition, we will capitalize on ongoing efforts to model future forest habitats across the NE CASC using LANDIS-PRO (led by Co-PI Thompson) and evaluations of bird habitat suitability led by NE CASC affiliates Drs. David King and Bill DeLuca, to assess the effectiveness of adaptive management approaches at sustaining these resources into the future.

Assessing Climate Change Threats and Actions in Northeast State Wildlife Action Plans

In 2016-2017, the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (NEAFWA) funded a synthesis of the 14 State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) in the Northeast Region through its Regional Conservation Needs grant program. All threats were investigated, including climate change, but because of the scope of the project, the final summary report did not include important details of the draft threat topical reports. This project leverages the climate change threat working group and draft climate change threat report and aims to deliver this information in the most accessible format possible. This project builds on this important work and will synthesize, analyze, and prioritize climate change threats and associated adaptation strategies and actions for Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need (RSGCN) as identified in the 2015 SWAPs to support coordinated regional conservation and adaptation by NEAFWA states. Terwilliger Consulting, Inc (TCI) will synthesize known threats to priority wildlife from the 2015 SWAPs, and cross-walk these with best-known approaches to mitigate climate impacts from the NE CASC and partners. The project will continue the working group’s approach of framing how climate change interacts with persistent, pervasive threats to wildlife like disease, invasive species, pollution, and barriers to flow in rivers and streams – threats that were identified as the highest priority in NEAFWA’s 2017 SWAP Synthesis project. 

Relocating Plants for Conservation and Restoration: Developing a Risk Assessment Framework

There is growing interest in the facilitated movement of plants as a means of conserving or restoring species and habitats, as climate conditions and management goals change. Some land managers, in an effort to be proactive in the face of changing environmental conditions, are also considering relocating plants to sites that are considered more similar to anticipated future conditions. However, moving plants can be ecologically and economically risky. It’s possible that pests, pathogens, or contaminant weeds can be inadvertently moved along with the target plant material. The goal of this project is to create a framework for evaluating risk associated with the movement of plant material. The first tier of the framework will describe the future condition of the species, site, or community of concern, if plant movement is implemented and if it is not. The second tier will assess the ecological risks associated with moving plant material. The benefit of such a framework will be to greatly reduce the likelihood of unintended introductions of pests and noxious species. It will also take into account the ability of plants to adapt to expected future environmental conditions in their new locations. This work will support a range of stakeholders, including private, state, federal, and non-profit land managers who undertake planting for conservation or restoration.

Additionally, we have expanded the scope of work of projects (first two list below) and are making progress on several other recent USGS-funded projects including:

Increasing the resilience and resistance of climate-vulnerable northeastern species and ecosystems 

How and why is the timing and occurrence of seasonal migrants in the Gulf of Maine changing due to climate?

“Hyperscale” Modeling to Understand and Predict Temperature Changes in Midwest Lakes

Development of the Wildlife Adaptation Menu for Resource Managers

Mapping Climate Change Resistant Vernal Pools in the Northeastern U.S.

View all Northeast CASC projects >>