The Northeast Climate Science Center has brought on three new projects recently in order to address wildlife conservation and climate change.
The first two projects focus on lakes, vernal pools, and hydrologic data across the Northeast, to better understand the concerns that climate change will have on aquatic ecosystems. The third project is a collaboration to create an extensive menu of adaptation options that can be used by land managers and conservationists to address climate change concerns. The collaborative efforts of these projects will help to increase our understanding of the impacts of climate change and expand the communication between land managers and scientists.
The projects are:
Vernal pools are small, seasonal wetlands that provide critically important seasonal habitat for many amphibian species of conservation concern. Natural resource managers and scientists in the Northeast, as well as the Northeast Refugia Research Coalition, coordinated by the Northeast CSC, recently identified vernal pools as a priority ecosystem to study. Recent revisions to State Wildlife Action Plans highlighted climate change and disease as primary threats to key vernal pool ecosystems. Mapping out the hydrology of vernal pools across the Northeast is an important step in informing land management and conservation decision-making. Project researchers will collect hydrology data over the course of a year for 70 vernal pools. They will combine this information with existing data on vernal pool hydrology, targeted amphibian species (e.g., wood frogs and spotted salamanders), and diseases that impact amphibians. This project will provide a preliminary assessment of the resistance of particular vernal pools to changes in climate by (1) modeling key aspects of vernal pool hydrology (inundated areas in spring, spring-to-summer changes in water cover etc.) based on climate and landscape drivers, and (2) relating vernal pool hydrology to amphibian occupancy and prevalence of disease. Project leader: Jennifer Cartwright, Tennessee Water Science Center
Many inland waters across the United States are experiencing warming water temperatures. The impacts of this warming on aquatic ecosystems are significant in many areas, causing problems for fisheries management, as many economically and ecologically important fish species are experiencing range shifts and population declines. Fisheries and natural resource managers need timely and usable data and tools in order to understand and predict changes to lakes and their biota. A related Northeast CSC-funded project modeled lake temperatures to help state agencies in the Midwest understand trends in walleye and largemouth bass populations and predict lake-specific fish populations under future climate scenarios. These results have been extremely valuable for decisions and management strategies at the state scale, and this new project will expand these efforts and will focus on lake temperature products at the three spatial scales of most interest to state agency stakeholders: lake, state, and region (for Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan). The project researchers will use a “hyperscale” modeling approach that will build upon the multi-state modeling framework developed in the earlier project to increase model accuracy for high priority managed lakes. This approach will use all observations of temperature that exist for every study lake in the region and use machine learning techniques to uncover biases in models used for lakes with many observations. The project will generate an improved assessment of aquatic habitat for lake fisheries, and will provide estimates of contemporary thermal habitats to be used by state partners to estimate the distribution and abundance of ecologically and economically important fish species. Deliverables for this project include: 1) hind-casted lake temperature profiles (1979-present), 2) summary outputs from the thermal models, and 3) individually tuned lake models for managers to use for testing and predicting future conditions under different climate change scenarios. Project leader: Jordan Read, USGS Center for Integrated Data Analytics
The Climate Change Response Framework (www.forestadaptation.org) is a collaborative approach to create a set of tools, partnerships, and actions to support climate-informed conservation and land management. Historically, this effort has focused on the needs of forest managers and forestry professionals. In recent years, there has been increasing demand to address climate change adaptation in wildlife management and conservation. Not only do managers need the best available science, it must also be presented in a usable format with feasible options within the purview of an individual manager. We will first complete a comprehensive review of peer-reviewed studies to summarize what management actions currently exist in climate change adaptation. We will then develop and test a menu of climate change adaptation actions that are suitable for wildlife management in terrestrial ecosystems. The Wildlife Adaptation Menu will be modeled off existing adaptation menus for Forestry and Urban Forestry, and it will be designed to be used in conjunction with the Adaptation Workbook. In addition to a menu of adaption strategies and approaches, we will also identify site-level tactics and develop case studies demonstrating the use of the menu and implementation. To ensure that information and tools meets the needs of managers, we involve and integrate input from wildlife managers at every step of the process. Managers will be involved in scoping (3 discussion groups in MN, WI, and MI), menu testing (1-2 workshops), and implementation (3-4 case studies). Project leader: Olivia LeDee, NE CSC / USGS