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Keywords:

  • adaptation;
  • adaptive management;
  • climate change;
  • conservation planning;
  • management;
  • scenario planning;
  • triage

Recent rapid changes in the Earth's climate have altered ecological systems around the globe. Global warming has been linked to changes in physiology, phenology, species distributions, interspecific interactions, and disturbance regimes. Projected future climate change will undoubtedly result in even more dramatic shifts in the states of many ecosystems. These shifts will provide one of the largest challenges to natural resource managers and conservation planners. Managing natural resources and ecosystems in the face of uncertain climate requires new approaches. Here, the many adaptation strategies that have been proposed for managing natural systems in a changing climate are reviewed. Most of the recommended approaches are general principles and many are tools that managers are already using. What is new is a turning toward a more agile management perspective. To address climate change, managers will need to act over different spatial and temporal scales. The focus of restoration will need to shift from historic species assemblages to potential future ecosystem services. Active adaptive management based on potential future climate impact scenarios will need to be a part of everyday operations. And triage will likely become a critical option. Although many concepts and tools for addressing climate change have been proposed, key pieces of information are still missing. To successfully manage for climate change, a better understanding will be needed of which species and systems will likely be most affected by climate change, how to preserve and enhance the evolutionary capacity of species, how to implement effective adaptive management in new systems, and perhaps most importantly, in which situations and systems will the general adaptation strategies that have been proposed work and how can they be effectively applied.