Climate variables are key determinants of geographic distributions and biophysical characteristics of ecosystems, communities, and species. Climate change is therefore affecting many species attributes, ecological interactions, and ecosystem processes. Because changes in the climate system will continue into the future regardless of emissions mitigation, strategies for protecting climate-sensitive ecosystems through management will be increasingly important. While there will always be uncertainties associated with the future path of climate change, the response of ecosystems to climate impacts, and the effects of management, it is both possible and essential for adaptation to proceed using the best available science.
This report provides a preliminary review of adaptation options for climate-sensitive ecosystems and resources in the United States. The term “adaptation” in this document refers to adjustments in human social systems (e.g., management) in response to climate stimuli and their effects. Since management always occurs in the context of desired ecosystem conditions or natural resource management goals, it is instructive to examine particular goals and processes used by different organizations to fulfill their objectives. Such an examination allows for discussion of specific adaptation options as well as potential barriers and opportunities for implementation. Using this approach, this report presents a series of chapters on the following selected management systems: National Forests, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Estuaries, and Marine Protected Areas. For these chapters, the authors draw on the literature, their own expert opinion, and expert workshops composed of resource management scientists and representatives of managing agencies. The information drawn from across these chapters is then analyzed to develop the key synthetic messages presented below.
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