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Implications of global climate change for natural resource damage assessment, restoration, and rehabilitation


Various international and national regulations hold polluters liable for the cleanup of released hazardous substances and the restoration/rehabilitation of natural resources to preincident baseline conditions, a process often referred to as natural resource damage assessment and restoration (NRDAR). Here, the authors describe how global climate change (GCC) will challenge each of the steps of NRDAR processes and offer eight recommendations to improve these processes in light of GCC. First, the authors call for a better understanding of the net effects of GCC and contaminants on natural resources. Second, the authors urge facilities and environmental managers to plan for GCC-related factors that are expected to increase the probability of contaminant releases. Third, the authors need to reevaluate definitions of baseline and reference conditions given that GCC will alter both their trajectories and variability. Fourth, the authors encourage long-term monitoring to improve the quantification of baseline conditions that will change as climate changes to enhance the accuracy of injury assessments, to evaluate the effectiveness of restoration, and to detect early warning signs that ecosystems are approaching tipping points. Fifth, GCC will likely require controversial decisions, such as moving or changing natural resources in response to, or in anticipation of, climate change; thus, greater community involvement in NRDAR processes will be increasingly important. Sixth, the authors promote using NRDAR restoration projects as opportunities to mitigate GCC-related impacts. Seventh, the authors recommend adaptive management approaches to NRDAR processes and communication of successes and failures widely. Finally, the authors recommend focusing on managing the stressors that might be exacerbated by GCC, such as pollution and habitat loss, because there is a long history of successfully mitigating these stressors, which can be more easily managed on local scales than climate change. With these recommendations enacted, we expect even more efficacious NRDAR processes worldwide, despite the challenges of GCC. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. © 2012 SETAC

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