Shared solutions to protect shared values

  • Salmon. Photo by Tim Torrell
  • Desert southwest. Photo by Jono Hey / Flickr
  • Boy with frog. Photo by Tom Woodward / Flickr

It is important to consider not only the impacts of other sectors on species and their ecosystems, but to look for opportunities for coordinated adaptation strategies that provide co-benefits.

Climate change poses significant challenges for more than our nation’s ecosystems. Its impacts also will be felt in cities and towns, and in sectors such as agriculture, energy, transportation and other infrastructure, housing, and water resources. The anticipated impacts to those sectors have been well documented and the threat of climate change has already prompted important adaptation efforts.

All of these affected interests will respond to climate change impacts in their own way, and the decisions made in these sectors will ultimately impact our nation’s fish, wildlife, and plants. At times, adaptation efforts taken by these sectors can conflict with the needs of ecosystems (maladaptation). For example, southwestern cities diversifying their water supplies may take vital water away from wildlife and farmers. But far more often, climate change adaptation can benefit multiple sectors. For example, restoring wetlands to provide more resilient habitats also can improve water quality and slow floodwaters helping downstream cities, while protecting coastal ecosystems also help protect communities and industries from rising sea level along the coast.

The Strategy identifies seven overarching climate adaptation strategies, common to all sectors, that can benefit fish, wildlife, and plant adaptation:

  1. Improve the consideration of impacts to fish, wildlife, and plants in the development of sector-specific climate adaptation strategies.
  2. Enhance coordination between sectors and natural resource managers, land-use planners, and decision makers regarding climate change adaptation.
  3. Use integrated planning to engage all levels of government (local, state, federal, and tribal) and multiple stakeholders in multi-sector planning.
  4. Make best available science on the impact of climate change on fish, wildlife, and plants accessible and useable for planning and decision-making across all sectors.
  5. Explicitly consider natural resource adaptation in sector-specific climate adaptation planning.
  6. Improve, develop, and deploy decision support tools, technologies, and best management practices that incorporate climate change information to reduce impacts on fish, wildlife, and plants.
  7. Assess the need for, and the utility of, expanding compensatory mitigation requirements for projects that reduce ecosystem resilience.

It is important to consider not only the impacts of other sectors on these species and their ecosystems, but to look for opportunities for coordinated adaptation strategies that provide co-benefits. These sectors can take actions that also reduce non-climate stressors on ecosystems. The Strategy recommends actions for managers in these sectors to promote co-benefits and ensure that the needs of fish, wildlife, and plants are considered in their climate adaptation efforts. For example:

Aerial View of Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Bruce Eilerts / USFWSAgriculture: Take sensitive lands out of crop production for extended periods of time to maintain and restore wildlife habitat, adopt agricultural production and land use strategies that are resilient under changing conditions, and utilize wildlife-friendly agricultural practices such as cut overall fertilizer use, thus reducing nutrient runoff that stresses aquatic ecosystems and increases their vulnerability to climate change.

Wind turbines.  Credit: Joshua Winchell / USFWSEnergy:
Incentivize the siting of new large energy projects in previously disturbed areas or areas that have the least impact to fish, wildlife, and plants, avoid areas of high ecological vulnerability and areas with limited water availability, and research and develop energy technologies that minimize climate change impacts to natural systems.

Urban sprawl population density. Credit: Ryan Hagerty / USFWSUrbanization: Anticipate changes in human demographic patterns in response to climate change and identify potential conflicts with the protection of natural systems, educate the public about ecosystems, the value of ecosystem services, and anticipated climate changes, and incorporate habitat migration potential into land-use planning and protect key corridors for species movement.

Power lines and train tracks in National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: USFWSTransportation: Identify changing transportation demands resulting from climate change and the implications to infrastructure development and impacts to natural systems, and work with natural resource agencies to develop best practices that address the potential to use bridges, culverts, and roadway design to mitigate specific impacts such as sea level rise, precipitation, and stormwater on flora and fauna.

Dam on river. Credit: John and Karen Hollingsworth / USFWSWater Resources: Expand water use efficiency, conservation, productivity, and substitution to reduce overall demand of water, use strategies that incorporate green infrastructure and watershed-based approaches that use the ecosystem services provided by fish, wildlife, and plant, and improve climate change information to help move management decisions beyond a reliance on past conditions.