Climate Change: What Is At Stake For Wildlife?

With climate science so often in the news these days, I am happy to report on the National Wildlife Federation Northeast Regional Center’s work to protect wildlife and our special places from the impacts of climate change. I am more excited than ever about this work – having just returned from a great training with some of the top climate scientists in the nation.

What is making this group of NWF staff so happy? Leading and participating in climate vulnerability assessment training of course! (From left to right, Austin Kane, Kara Reeve, Chris Hilke, Naomi Edelson, Patty Glick & Celia Haven)

NWF and the US Fish and Wildlife Service organized the training. Fifty-two resource managers joined me from across the country representing numerous federal agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, US Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service among others.

The three-day training focused on providing methods for conducting species and/or habitat climate change vulnerability assessments. These assessments have become an important tool for natural resource managers for informing project implementation and on-the-ground decision-making. Having a sense of how vulnerable a species or habitat is to the impacts of climate change is an increasingly important consideration.

The training was lead by an amazing team of instructors, which included Hector Galbraith from Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.

Senior Manager of NWF's Northeast Climate Change Adaptation Program, George Gay (left) talks with Hector Galbraith (center) and Chris Hilke about climate change.

Hector is one of the premier climate change scientists in the northeast and a frequent partner with NWF’s Northeast office on climate adaptation projects across the region.

The Northeast Regional Center is currently working with Hector and Manomet on a number of vulnerability assessment initiatives.

* A first of it’s kind regional assessment focused on the vulnerability of habitats across the northeast to the impacts of climate change

* A habitat vulnerability assessment for New York, which will be used by state agencies to inform the revision of their Wildlife Action Plan.

* Manomet and NWF are helping the NH Department of Fish & Game in their efforts to conduct a species and habitat VA that will inform both the Wildlife Action Plan and the NH State Climate Adaptation Plan.

* The Northeast Regional Center has played a primary role in facilitating the development of a vulnerability assessment in New Jersey that is just getting underway.

American Marten depend on Spruce-Fir habitat for shelter and food.

Our work is yielding critical information. We are learning that spruce-fir habitat across much of southern New England is under threat from climate change. This will have a significant impact on the Canadian lynx, American marten, Bicknell’s Thrush and Boreal Chickadee that require spruce-fir habitat to survive. Further, we are learning that warmer winter temperatures are changing the composition of our forests by allowing a number of invasive exotic pests to spread northward including the Asian Longhorn Beetle and the Woolly Adelgid.

The Northeast Regional Center is working hard to put this science into practical applications for resource managers of today and tomorrow. There is no greater evidence of this than our partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society to provide system-specific climate-smart guidelines to resource managers to help inform wildlife and natural resource management.

* We are working with northeast experts to develop a suite of climate-smart guidelines for projects in upland forest systems. These guidelines will first be implemented at Shingle Shanty Research Station & Preserve in New York.

* Our panel of marine experts is developing strategies to protect coastal habitats from the impacts of sea level rise in Delaware.

* We are working with a broad coalition of experts to devise climate strategies to protect sea-run Brook Trout at the Century Bog complex in Red Brook, Massachusetts.

As the Northeast recovered from the destruction of almost all of its forests some 100 years ago, this generation can make significant steps to protect our wildlife and special places from the impacts of climate change as we work to create clean energy to reduce carbon pollution.


Published: October 11, 2011