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Climate Savvy: Adapting Conservation and Resource Management to a Changing World

Climate Savvy: Adapting Conservation and Resource Management to a Changing World

by Lara J. Hansen, Jennifer Ruth Hoffman

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Climate change demands a change in how we envision, prioritize, and implement conservation and management of natural resources. Addressing threats posed by climate change cannot be simply an afterthought or an addendum, but must be integrated into the very framework of how we conceive of and conduct conservation and management.
In Climate Savvy, <


Climate change demands a change in how we envision, prioritize, and implement conservation and management of natural resources. Addressing threats posed by climate change cannot be simply an afterthought or an addendum, but must be integrated into the very framework of how we conceive of and conduct conservation and management.
In Climate Savvy, climate change experts Lara Hansen and Jennifer Hoffman offer 18 chapters that consider the implications of climate change for key resource management issues of our time—invasive species, corridors and connectivity, ecological restoration, pollution, and many others. How will strategies need to change to facilitate adaptation to a new climate regime? What steps can we take to promote resilience?
Based on collaboration with a wide range of scientists, conservation leaders, and practitioners, the authors present general ideas as well as practical steps and strategies that can help cope with this new reality.
While climate change poses real threats, it also provides a chance for creative new thinking. Climate Savvy offers a wide-ranging exploration of how scientists, managers, and policymakers can use the challenge of climate change as an opportunity to build a more holistic and effective philosophy that embraces the inherent uncertainty and variability of the natural world to work toward a more robust future.

Editorial Reviews

Book News

"The "tao" of adaptation is introduced by Drs. Hansen and Hoffman (Buying Time: A Users' Guide to Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems), among the founders of EcoAdapt, a nonprofit organization working on ecosystem-oriented climate change adaptation strategies."

Davis-Shine Professor of Conservation Biology, University of Central Florida - Reed Noss
"Adaptation to climate change is not a cop out; it is a necessity. Thousands of species and many distinct ecosystems are threatened by changes happening too quickly across fragmented landscapes. Either we leave it to the engineers, developers, and politicians to figure out how to protect property values during this mess, or conservationists must work with society to help nature, as well as humans, adapt. Climate Savvy offers excellent guidance in this direction."
The Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment - Thomas E. Lovejoy
"As our world transforms by climate change into a psychedelic nightmare, Climate Savvy provides a solid guide for conservation. This is a handbook for the changing future, grounded in science and deeply practical. It will be essential reading for any planner, manager, or environmentalist."

"In short, this is a useful handbook for helping resource managers realize some of the challenges that they will need to address in the coming years."
Austral Ecology
"Climate Savvy is a timely publication. It is a guide to robust decision-making for everyone from Landcare groups to policy-makers."
author of Citizens of the Sea - Nancy Knowlton
"In this no-hype, no-nonsense guide, the authors clearly and eloquently explain why and how strategies for conservation must be transformed to cope with our inevitably changing climate. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone who cares about and plans for our planet's future."
The International Journal of Conservation Oryx
"In short, this is a useful handbook for helping resource managers realize some of the challenges that they will need to address in the coming years."
Natural Areas Journal
"This book can help managers grasp the breadth of issues related to climate change that are relevant to conservation and management and behind thinking creatively about the future."
Reference & Research Book News
"The 'tao' of adaptation is introduced by Drs. Hansen and Hoffman (Buying Time: A Users' Guide to Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems), among the founders of EcoAdapt, a nonprofit organization working on ecosystem-oriented climate change adaptation strategies."

Product Details

Island Press
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7.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Climate Savvy

Adapting Conservation and Resource Management to a Changing World

By Lara J. Hansen, Jennifer R. Hoffman


Copyright © 2011 Island Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59726-988-9


In the Beginning

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one "less traveled by"—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

We are at a crossroads—or perhaps a traffic circle—of options about our future, including decisions about how we react to the reality of climate change. We must decide not only what to do about greenhouse gas emissions but also how to respond to the myriad effects of climate change as they continue to manifest themselves around our planet. Included in these choices is how we rethink natural resource conservation and management in light of climate change.

For more than a century the collective focus has been on protecting resources as they are, restoring them to what they were at some previous time, or using them based on past experience and understanding. Unfortunately, past and even present conditions are not likely to resemble the future. We are already seeing alterations in the natural world as a result of climate change. Warmer temperatures, different precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, acidifying waters, and greater climatic variability are leading us to new and ever-changing environmental conditions. This means we need to reconsider our goals and objectives and the tools we use to meet them. We may not need to abandon our goals, but we certainly need to examine thoughtfully how to achieve them given this new reality.

In this book we will explore how the world is changing and how our perspective can adjust to keep up when it comes to protecting and managing nature and the resources it provides. We will begin with an exploration of climate change basics and a look at where the world is today. Obviously this small tome cannot cover the myriad changes afoot, nor provide a detailed exposition on how climate change and adaptation may play out in every corner of the world. It certainly cannot tell you with certainty what the future will be—no one can. We hope, however, that it gives you a broad-brush outline to flesh out based on your own local knowledge. At the very least it may help you to avoid overlooking key categories of climate change impact and vulnerability that may be lying in wait to thwart your long-term success.

With climate change basics as a foundation, we explore what is meant by the term adaptation in the climate world. In any field, some terms get bandied about with no clear sense of what they mean, and adaptation runs the risk of being such a term. Soulé (1986) posited that the creation of the field of conservation biology was possible only when there was a critical mass of people who self-identified as conservation biologists. In the case of climate change adaptation (as distinct from evolutionary adaptation; see box 1.1), the term appeared in the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, well before there was a critical mass of practitioners behind it. The number of climate adaptation practitioners is growing, but the field is still poorly defined and rapidly evolving. Because of the potential for adaptation-specific funding, some groups are working hard to define adaptation based on what would bring them funding rather than what would best reduce vulnerability to climate change. Even the terminology itself is confusing (see, for example, box 1.2). Policy and management decisions are moving ahead despite these limitations, so we must build a common understanding of what we are all working toward. This book attempts to lay out a framework, or philosophy, to help move this dialogue along.

Having a philosophy or a framework is all very well, but without techniques and tools you cannot get very far. We spend a good deal of the book exploring the wealth of conservation and resource management tools, their vulnerabilities to climate change, and how they can be implemented in ways that maintain or increase their effectiveness. This includes many old friends—protected areas; species-based protection; connectivity; regulating harvests; reduction of pollutants; control of invasive species, pests, and disease; and restoration—but adds a new spin to how they can be applied to deal with climate change.

Along the way we offer some thoughts on how to use models, a mainstay of climate change science and planning, as well as options for integrating the needs of humans and nature to increase the likelihood of success for both and how to use and improve governance mechanisms to support adaptation efforts. And, of course, we explore the most important tool for developing and implementing adaptation: creative thinking.

A Brief History of Adaptation

Following the completion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) first Impacts Assessment in 1990, there was an identified need for a standard framework to create comparable data across studies. This led to the IPCC Technical Guidelines for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (Carter et al. 1994). These early guidelines laid out some definitional and mechanistic needs that the inorganically derived field of adaptation required (see box 1.4). As mentioned, unlike most fields where a group of interested parties creates a discipline from the bottom up, adaptation has been created from the top down almost by edict from the IPCC and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. As a result, adaptation has no formal discipline to which to refer, no evolutionary or reverential literature, and no pedagogical process or best practices for training new practitioners. It is a field almost reinvented by each new participant. This is a challenge for a field that requires urgent translation of concepts into practice if it hopes to be effective.

Although climate change adaptation is still developing, it can take advantage of what we have learned about effective and ineffective planning and practice for resource management and conservation. Traditional and modern approaches to resource management can be blended into a more holistic framework upon which to base a new, climate-savvy approach. There is an opportunity for adaptation to reintegrate the human element, designing conservation for whole systems rather than trying to separate "pristine wilderness" and human communities. In a way, adaptation could allow for the correction of some of our past mistakes in conservation and management, just as its very reason for being is correcting some of our past mistakes in terms of poor energy planning.

One early list of adaptation approaches included eight categories: bear losses, share losses, modify the threat, prevent effects, change use, change location, research, andeducate (Burton et al. 1998). In the years since, other frameworks have appeared that parse adaptation options in other ways. Such lists are useful, but they are only broad, general starting points. Our aim in this book is to provide a bit more detail and a few of the lessons that have been learned in the decade since that list was devised.

Adaptation is more than a simple list of options, or even a complicated list of options. It is a complex, ongoing process and a state of mind. If adaptation were simple, we could tell you what to do and you would be guaranteed success every time. When was the last time a recipe worked for resource management even without climate change? With uncertainty about future climate trajectories, the biological responses to those climate changes, and the human responses to both, not even a really smart flowchart can plot the course. If we instead think of climate adaptation as a set of informed actions we take based on an awareness of climate change and associated uncertainties, then we have a lifestyle rather than a life sentence from which to work.

You Do Not Have to Reinvent the Wheel

Climate change may present a whole new challenge, but it also offers an opportunity to make conservation and resource management more robust as we shift from recovering from past damage to preparing for future changes. We can build this new path standing on the shoulders of giants as we take advantage of all we have already learned about how to practice conservation biology and resource management.

Conservation biology, resource management, ecological restoration, and climate change adaptation can all be viewed as crisis disciplines in that they require us to act with incomplete knowledge, a tolerance of uncertainty, and a mix of science, art, intuition, and information (Soulé 1985). Yet while these elements have been part of conservation, management, and restoration from the get-go, they are somehow paralyzing for practitioners when it comes to climate adaptation. Many of the leaps of faith required for climate change adaptation are the same leaps we have been taking as part of our daily practice for years. In fact, once you start thinking about how to incorporate climate change into conservation or management it will seem curiously similar, or at least analogous, to what is already standard practice.

Final Thoughts

We are all on a mission to protect ecosystems, support sustainable development, manage natural resources for ongoing use, and protect human well-being. Succeeding at this mission now requires the inclusion of climate change in our philosophy and practice. Many of our old tools, and the ways in which we use them, need to be modified if we are to meet the goal of our mission. Unfortunately, time is of the essence because climatic changes are happening now and, without our intervention, will continue well into the future.


Climate Change and Its Effects


To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.

George Orwell

For better or worse, climate change is affecting many elements of the world around us. We can incorporate this reality into our planning or we can ignore it, but the climatic changes currently under way will continue regardless. Species ranges will continue to shift, the timing of seasonal events will continue to change, and weather patterns will no longer follow familiar paths. If we fail to look at how our policies and practices might be affected by these changes, we run the risk of investing time, money, and political capital in plans that are at best irrelevant and at worst maladaptive. This is true for any sector or activity influenced by climatic conditions, be it resource management, development, or conservation. Climate change is not the only important consideration for conservation or natural-resource planning, but ignoring it would be as shortsighted as ignoring the possible influence of land use, pollution, or invasive species.

To adapt conservation to inevitable climatic changes, practitioners need a solid understanding of the basics of climate and climate change: what we know, how we know it, and how certain we are. Both the range of plausible changes and the degree of uncertainty are central elements of how and why "business as usual" conservation is no longer an option (or at least not an option with a high likelihood of success). The range of possibilities matters because it highlights vulnerabilities of current approaches, such as basing conservation plans only on the current distribution of species whose range is already shifting. The uncertainty matters because even the best climate models cannot provide 100 percent certainty about the future climate, so we need to focus on how best to plan in the face of uncertainty rather than just on improving the models.

The goal of this chapter is to provide an overview of the sorts of physical, chemical, and biological changes the future may have in store. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fourth assessment report (IPCC 2007a, 2007b) is an excellent source for more details on the material presented here, but neither this chapter nor the IPCC is any substitute for a place-based assessment of current climatology, future changes, their effects, and potential vulnerabilities.

Climate Variability versus Climate Change

Day to day, season to season, year to year, and decade to decade, species and ecosystems experience changing climatic conditions. In contrast, directional climate change is a longer-term trend toward a new climate regime. The current rate of warming is roughly ten times faster than any rate in the last 10,000 years (IPCC 2007a). As illustrated in figure 2.1, current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, a major driver of climate change, are significantly higher than at any time in the last 400,000 years. After millennia of cycling between roughly 180 and 300 parts per million, carbon dioxide levels jumped from 280 to 385 in just over a century, and at current rates of emission are likely to reach an unprecedented 800 parts per million within the next century. The past 10,000 years have been remarkably stable climatically, and the species, communities, and cultures existing today have evolved in the context of this stability.

Climatic changes occur on a number of spatial scales. Global changes such as we are currently experiencing happen only when there is some shift in the forces that determine Earth's total heat balance, such as the position of Earth relative to the sun or the concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Regional climate change may result from global change, but it may also result from a redistribution of heat without large changes in global mean temperature, as happens when there are significant changes in major ocean currents. An example of extreme regional changes not linked to global change are several temperature increases of between 10 and 16°C during the course of just a few decades in Greenland during the last glacial period (IPCC 2007a). A less abrupt but global change was Earth's transition from the last ice age into the current Holocene Period roughly 10,000 years ago. Following a prolonged period of generally cool but highly variable conditions, the global average temperature increased on the order of 5 to 7°C, and sea level rose by 100 meters as ice caps and glaciers melted and oceans warmed and expanded.

Annual or decadal changes occur on top of the current directional global warming. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, can bring large changes in sea level, temperature, and precipitation on a year-to-year basis. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), in contrast, switches between warm-wet and cool-dry phases over the course of decades (fig. 2.2). Similar decadal oscillations exist in other regions of the globe. Thus the recent extreme warmth in parts of the world is due to the combination of the warm-phase PDO and directional global warming. As the PDO shifts to a cool phase, we should expect a period of cooler weather. This temporary cooling in no way indicates an end to global warming, however, and when the PDO shifts back to a warm phase, we can expect it to be even warmer than during the previous warm phase.

Another way to put this is that directional climate change does not mean that each year will be warmer than the last. It means that on average, over scales much longer than decades, the Earth's atmosphere is warming. There will be warm years and cool years, warm decades and cool decades, but on average, over the next 100 years things will keep getting warmer.

Measuring Change, Predicting the Future

Scientific knowledge about past climates and climatic changes comes from a variety of sources. Air bubbles trapped in ice provide information on the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere when the air bubbles were formed. The ratio of different isotopes of oxygen or nitrogen in the ice itself indicates how much of Earth's fresh water was in solid versus liquid forms (isotopes are different versions of the same element that have different weights and therefore are more or less likely to end up in the atmosphere as the globe heats or cools). The distribution of fossil pollen or marine micro organisms with varying temperature tolerances provides yet another indicator for past climatic conditions. Combining information from a number of these "climate proxies" builds a more complete picture of past climate conditions and helps determine how certain we can be about our conclusions.

In combination with these measurements of past conditions, scientists develop climate models to understand past climates and to project into the future. Models are based on first principles—that is, on our understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that govern the climate system. These includes such factors as atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping or heat-reflecting gases, how much heat Earth's surface absorbs or reflects, ocean currents, and plant cover. The accuracy of models is verified by testing their ability to simulate current or past climates. The better a model simulates these known climates, the more weight we give its projections of future climate. Scientists also compare the results of multiple models as a way of better estimating degrees of certainty. If all models agree on certain projections for the future, we can have greater confidence in those projections.


Excerpted from Climate Savvy by Lara J. Hansen, Jennifer R. Hoffman. Copyright © 2011 Island Press. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lara J. Hansen is Executive Director of EcoAdapt, a nonprofit organization focused on adapting conservation and resource management to climate change.

Jennifer R. Hoffman is Director of projects for EcoAdapt. With Jennifer Biringer, they wrote and edited Buying Time: A User’s Manual for Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems.

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