Managing for Resilience:
How Natural Ecosystems Can Cope with Climate Change
July 8, 2009
A new report, exploring how ecosystems might adapt to climate changes over the next half-century, predicts that large parts of the United States will confront a range of weather-related problems—from plagues of insect infestations to wildfires, from melting permafrost to dried wetlands, and from incursions of invasive species to large-scale species extinction.
Dealing with such events, write Steven Running and L. Scott Mills of the University of Montana, will require management of the "synergistic interactions between climate change and other human-caused stressors" that can increase uncertainty and complicate actions to mediate climate change effects. In "Terrestrial Ecosystem Adaptation," Running and Mills look at a variety of ecosystems and also focus on adaptation scenarios of several species affected by changing weather trends, including the snowshoe hare, wolverines, waterfowl, bighorn sheep, and varieties of amphibians.
They note that climate events often result in changes in the timing of activities such as mating, reproduction, population growth, or migration. In order to preserve species in a climate-altered world, Running and Mills suggest a variety of measures, including such tactics as assisted colonization and directed evolution.
The report is one in a series issued as part of a major RFF project on domestic adaptation policy.
"Infectious disease organisms are a focal group of species that will be greatly affected by climate change and that strongly interact with, and influence the size of, plant and animal populations. For example, increased temperature, humidity, and rainfall generally accelerate parasite life cycles and improve pathogen survival. New species interactions, caused by wildlife range shifts in response to warming, will lead to new disease exposures, and latitudinal and altitudinal shifts in insect vectors will bring a suite of new diseases."