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Critters get a national adaptation strategy for climate change



Elkhorn Slough in Central California is a sentinel site for the federal government's strategy on climate change adaptation for wildlife. They're watching how a warming planet changes the ecosystem and the wildlife living there.
Elkhorn Slough in Central California is a sentinel site for the federal government's strategy on climate change adaptation for wildlife. They're watching how a warming planet changes the ecosystem and the wildlife living there.
*~Dawn~*/Flickr

If there's going to be a national climate change strategy, it'll start with the critters. The U.S. is putting together a national adaptation strategy for wildlife, and today Sacramento played host to a related discussion. 
In a 111-page draft, a team of federal, state, and tribal officials and wildlife managers consider what will happen: 

Warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are expected to cause more fires and more pest outbreaks like the mountain pine beetle epidemic in forests, for instance, while boreal forest will move north into what is now tundra. Grasslands and shrublands are likely to be invaded by non-native species and suffer wetland losses from drier conditions, which would decrease nesting habitat for waterfowl. Deserts are expected to get hotter and drier, accelerating existing declines in species like the Saguaro cactus. 

If you lack the patience to make your way through a dense draft report, there's a pretty picture version that lays out the goals of developing this strategy. 

The first goal is conserving "habitat to support healthy fish, wildlife and plant populations and ecosystem functions in a changing climate." That ain't easy. As the report points out: "In Yosemite National Park, half of 28 species of small mammals (e.g., pinyon mouse, California vole, alpine chipmunk, and others) monitored showed substantial (500 meters on average) upward changes in elevation, consistent with an increase in minimum temperatures." Fish species have shifted in coastal waters, with more marked effects among species targeted for fishing. 

The second goal might raise hackles, too: "Manage species and habitats to protect ecosystem functions and provide sustainable cultural, subsistence, recreational, and commercial use in a changing climate." God knows the Endangered Species Act isn't controversial or anything. 

Cal Fish and Game is taking part in the national conversation. And they do point out that the natural world forms the basis for economic and other human interests: jobs, food, clean water, clean air, building materials, storm protection and recreation. The national strategy tries to get along with California Climate Adaptation Strategy, and those of other states already on top of this. And it encourages other states to do stuff that matches what's already been done. The coalition of government agencies, tribes and wildlife managers are presenting their strategy in public workshops; the last one is online, in about 3 weeks

"The impacts of climate change are already here and those who manage our landscapes are already dealing with them," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes said, in a release. If and when they make this final, the first report from the task force for doing this comes out in June 2013. Assuming, arguendo, there's still a federal government that accepts the findings of most mainstream climate scientists, and makes global warming a priority in some way.