Preliminary review of adaptation options for climate-sensitive ecosystems and resources

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The US Government’s Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) is responsible for providing the best science-based knowledge possible to inform management of the risks and opportunities associated with changes in the climate and related environmental systems. To support its mission, the CCSP has commissioned 21 “synthesis and assessment products” (SAPs) to advance decision-making on climate change-related issues by providing current evaluations of climate change science and identifying priorities for research, observation, and decision support. This Report— SAP 4.4— focuses on federally managed lands and waters to provide a “Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources.” It is one of seven reports that support Goal 4 of the CCSP Strategic Plan to understand the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed ecosystems and human systems to climate and related global changes.

The purpose of SAP 4.4 is to provide useful information on the state of knowledge regarding adaptation options for key, representative ecosystems and resources that may be sensitive to climate variability and change. As its title suggests, this report is a preliminary review, defined as “the process of collecting and reviewing available information about known or potential adaptation options.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that there are few demonstrated examples of ecosystem-focused adaptation options (see IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 17.4.2.1 and 4.6.2). Thus, the authors of this SAP found it necessary to examine adaptation options in the context of a desired ecosystem condition or natural resource management goal, as set forth by the resource management entity. Therefore, this report explores potential adaptation options that could be used by natural resource managers within the context of the legislative and administrative mandates of the six systems examined: National Forests, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Estuaries, and Marine Protected Areas. Case studies throughout this report examine in greater detail some of the issues and challenges associated with implementation of adaptation options, but are not intended to be geographically comprehensive or representative of the full breadth of ecosystems that exist or adaptation options that are available.

The management systems selected for this report are meant to be representative of a variety of ecosystem types and management goals, in order to be useful to managers who work at different spatial and organizational scales. Time and resource constraints do not allow for a comprehensive coverage of all federally owned and managed lands and waters, which means that some important management systems (e.g., Bureau of Land Management lands, Department of Defense lands, tribal lands, research reserves) are not featured in this report. However, this preliminary review of existing adaptation knowledge does contain science-based adaptation strategies that are broadly applicable to not only other federal lands, but also state, local, territorial, tribal, and non-governmental holdings. Adaptive Management, a key tool recognized in this report, is an important concept within the Department of the Interior, and an Adaptive Management Technical Guide2 was released in the spring of 2007.

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