Connecting climate science with state resource planning

Heat waves, floods, droughts, rising stream temperatures, less severe winters, more intense storms.

Humans being humans, when we hear about looming threats like these, we can’t help but think about how they will impact us as individuals. “Heat waves” might make you dread sweltering sleepless nights, “floods” might make you worry about water damage in your basement, “multiple tornadoes in one day” might just gives you nightmares.

And be honest:  “Less severe winters” probably made you jump for joy.

But when natural resource managers are faced with such a list, they are also responsible for thinking about what these projections mean for fish, wildlife, and the habitats upon which they depend.

What does climate change mean for piping plover and other Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need (RSGCN)? A new report provides strategic guidance for resource managers in the Northeast to address climate-related management issues in their wildlife action plans. Credit: Amanda Boyd/US Fish and Wildlife Service

On the heels of the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northeast Climate Science Center released a report this week outlining precisely what is known about the impending impacts of climate change for the region — and what still remains uncertain. That list above? Just a sample of what we should expect.

What makes the NECSC report so significant is that more than just laying out bad news, it offers strategic guidance for natural resource managers in the Northeast and Midwest states to integrate regional climate science into the 10-year updates of their State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs), mandatory documents that outline plans of action for state conservation decision making. The goal of the report is to inform the revision of the plans on paper, and to provide a starting point for coordinated and collaborative science and adaptation on the ground through a range of approaches, processes, tools, and potential partnerships to support them in the effort.

As a generator of resources in all of those categories, and a convener of regional conservation partners, the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) played a key behind-the-scenes role in the development of the report.

Salt marsh erosion in Delaware Bay as a result of flooding from Hurricane Sandy. Extreme storms and floods are predicted to increase in the Northeast as a result of climate change. (Credit: Katie Conrad/US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Salt marsh erosion in Delaware Bay as a result of flooding from Hurricane Sandy. Extreme storms and floods are predicted to increase in the Northeast as a result of climate change. Credit: Katie Conrad/US Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We were pleased to be able to connect the Climate Science Center and the regional SWAP coordinators, and to help integrate LCC-sponsored work on climate change vulnerability assessments and conservation designs into the report, including the identification of Northeast Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas,” said North Atlantic LCC Coordinator Andrew Milliken.

This ability to serve as a liaison between the latest science and the practitioners who need it is what makes LCCs uniquely qualified for the role described in President Obama’s Climate Resources Priority Agenda to help enhance the climate resilience of natural resources and landscapes and the benefits they provide to people.

For the natural resource professionals who are responsible for species and habitats, the connection between science and management is critical for keeping pace with a phenomenon defined by widespread acceleration.

For the rest of us, it’s at least reason to sleep better at night. Without tornado nightmares.

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