Manage Habitats for Climate Change Resilience
Climate change has already been linked to changes in habitats and ecosystems, including species composition, weather patterns and the length of the seasons. As average global temperature continues to warm, these changes will continue.
What Does Climate Change Mean for Habitats and Ecosystems?
The potential impacts to habitats vary by region, species composition, established weather patterns, and much more. The impacts may include:
- Shifting boundaries between habitats. Some habitat types or ecosystems may expand their range, while others will contract.
- Changing species composition due to climate change impacts, such as species migration, competition, predation, and disease.
- More severe weather — storms, floods, droughts, etc.
- Warmer temperatures, which typically (but not always) mean wetter and shorter winters, and hotter, drier and longer summers.
- Increased health risks from disease, pests and new competitors or predators.
- Habitat alteration or degradation due to drought, rising temperatures, wildfire and other events.
- Temporal or geographic disconnect between species that previously relied upon one another, such as pollinators and flowers.
How Can Land Trusts Help?
By planning for climate change today, land trusts help priority habitats and ecosystems weather the effects of climate change tomorrow. Land trusts may consider the following actions:
- Assess the vulnerability of priority species or habitats.
- Anticipate and plan for uncertainty through scenario planning and/or adaptive management practices.
- Protect the connectivity of important wildlife habitats.
Since the impacts of climate change will vary by habitat, land trusts may wish to adapt their management policies to fit their priority habitat(s) or ecosystem(s).