New Publication: Preparing Wildlife for Climate Change--How Far Have We Come?

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Marine mammals such as the gray seal are one of many species that have been placed under severe stress by climate change.

Marine mammals such as the gray seal (above) are one of many species that have been placed under severe stress by climate change.

Published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, a recent article authored by NE CASC Deputy Federal Director Olivia LeDee and her collaborators finds that management recommendations for helping wildlife adapt to climate change tend to focus on broad-scale approaches, such as establishing protected areas, rather than on tactics that can be applied at local or regional scales by on-the-ground resource managers.

Plant and animal species across the world are experiencing unprecedented thermal, hydrological, and biological conditions due to climate change, contributing to a global decline in biodiversity. Through research articles, scientists often make recommendations for how to minimize the effects of climate change on wildlife that inform resource managers’ programs and strategies for helping species adapt to these changing conditions. Yet it is unclear how well these suggestions fit the needs of modern wildlife managers.

Researchers examined a wide array of management recommendations in the literature addressing the consequence of climate change on wildlife populations. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches, the authors reviewed 509 articles containing wildlife climate adaptation recommendations. For this study, they focused exclusively on terrestrial systems and did not include recommendations relating to increased research or monitoring. The study identified 2,306 recommendations for helping wildlife populations prepare for and adapt to climate change. The authors found the most frequent suggestion in these articles was to establish and enhance protected areas (26%). Recommendations to maintain and create habitat, manage existing threats (including invasive species and human encroachment), and preserve existing populations and communities through in situ interventions and genetic monitoring were also common.

These results reveal a significant gap in the literature: while the proffered strategies may be effective, they are often outside the purview of the individual land managers tasked with creating and enacting on-the-ground climate adaptation programs. However, land managers may benefit from an increased focus on adaptation strategies that can be applied at more local and regional scales.

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