Transboundary Connectivity Conservation for a Changing Climate

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Enhancing ecological connectivity - the degree to which landscapes facilitate the movement of the organisms within them - is a frequently recommended strategy for conserving wildlife populations into the future. This is because a primary way in which species respond to climate change is by adjusting their geographic ranges to find more suitable temperatures and adequate food supplies. However, widespread fragmentation of landscapes by human activities presents a serious obstacle to these processes, which may contribute to a decline in biodiversity, and subsequent declines in the many services healthy ecosystems provide, such as clean air and water. In order to address the need for effective connectivity management in the face of climate change, scientists teamed with land managers in the transboundary region of British Columbia and Washington State to apply the best available science directly to the information needs of those seeking to manage connectivity. The scientists and managers used conceptual models to understand and project a wide range of future impacts to habitat connectivity in the Pacific Northwest, and then identified a diverse set of possible adaptation responses to address habitat connectivity. Join this webinar to learn more about the researchers' key findings, data, and maps.
 

Details

Date Taken:

Length: 00:52:33

Location Taken: WA, US

Video Credits

Meade Krosby, Elda Varela Minder Partners: National Conservation Training Center, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
 

Transcript

 

 John Ossanna: [0:05] Welcome. From the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center, my name is John Ossanna. I would like to welcome you to our webinar series held in partnership with the US Geological Survey National Climate Adaptation Science Center. Today’s webinar is titled, "Transboundary Connectivity Conservation for Changing Climate." 

[0:23] We're proud to have Meade Krosby with us today. To introduce our presenter, we have Nicole DeCrappeo from the Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center. Nicole is the director out there. Nicole, handing it over to you. 

Nicole DeCrappeo: [0:36] Thanks, John. I'm really pleased to introduce Meade. Meade Krosby is a senior scientist with the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group and is also the University Deputy Director of the Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center. 

[0:51] Meade works closely with land and wildlife managers to collaboratively understand and address climate impact on species and ecosystem. 

[1:01] Her current work includes vulnerability assessment in adaptation planning, large landscape conservation planning for climate resilience, and efforts to build climate adaptation capacity in communities of practice. Meade received a BS in biology from Cornell University and her PhD in biology from University of Washington. Please take it away, Meade. 

Meade Krosby: [1:24] Thank you, Nicole. Thank you all so much for being here today. It's something that I care a lot about, which is connectivity conservation and climate resilience. I'm going to talk about two projects actually that I've led that have been funded by the Northwest CAS. One of the projects was completed a few years ago. 

[1:47] One of them is underway right now, and that builds off of the earlier work. Both of these efforts aim to support transboundary connectivity conservation in the Northwest in a changing climate. How do we ensure that species are able to move across the landscape? In particular across jurisdictional boundaries as the climate changes. 

[2:08] That's important because we know that moving, shifting their geographic range, is one of the key ways that species adapt to climate change. Political borders impose significant barriers to climate-driven movement of plants and animals. A little bit of a trigger warning here. Some of these barriers are pretty catastrophic like the wall that's being built along the US-Mexico border. 

[2:30] This is a worst-case scenario for a barrier for climate-driven species movement. This wall is being built east-west. It's directly in the path of poleward range shifts by species. 

[2:44] Some of these barriers are more subtle. Up here, at the border of Washington and British Columbia, in the Pacific Northwest, we also have a border that runs east/west in the path of poleward range shifts. p.2 

 

[3:00] Yes [laughs] , a caveat. Species are moving individualistically but, on average, globally, we're seeing shifts towards the poles and upward in elevation. 

[3:08] We don't have a wall up here, thank God. We have a lot of really lovely, natural, north/south and elevational corridors in our public lands that are in relatively good condition. 

[3:19] We see my arrow here, but we have the Cascade mountain range here, much of which is public land. We have our more arid lands of the Columbia Plateau, which have a nice quarter up here through the Okanogan Valley in British Columbia. Over here, we have the Rockies. 

[3:37] We don't have a wall, but the border poses more of a barrier to connectivity than you might think. 

[3:43] For example, land use often isn't coordinated between Washington and British Columbia. You can have land in really good condition on one side of the border, like here. Then, you have logging going on on the other side. 

[3:54] We also have pieces over here. In the Okanagan and the north end of the Columbia Plateau are [indecipherable] systems where, on the US-side of the border, this is our far-northern part of the country. 

[4:08] This area's pretty sparsely populated whereas, on the British Columbia side, in Canada, the Okanagan Valley is the hottest, driest place in Canada. It's like the Palm Springs of Canada. 

[4:21] Folks really want to live here. People have summer homes here. Retirement communities are building golf courses. There's vineyards and wineries. We have really different development pressures going on both sides of the border. Again, development isn't necessarily being coordinated across the border. 

[4:40] If we want to conserve habitat connectivity across the border, our ability to use science to identify key corridors for maintaining and restoring connectivity under climate change is also challenged not just by land-management disconnect across the border but also by the data that's available to guide those decisions. 

[4:59] Often, connectivity or climate models stop at the border. They're either available only in British Columbia or only in the Northwest US, but they don't cross the border. 

[5:09] I can tell you from experience that's often because the base layers that we use to build these models often don't cross the border. 

[5:16] When you do find datasets or model outputs that are transboundary, if you zoom in at the border, you'll notice often really strange things happening, where, again, because a lot of the underlying data is not the same, you wind up with strange quirks and eccentricities as you cross the border. 

[5:36] It's not quite the same thing you're getting on either side of the border. It's not seamless. We have data barriers at the border. That can make science-based decision-making more difficult. Then we also have people barriers. p.3 

 

[5:48] We have institutional barriers at the border. We have land and wildlife managers who are on either side of the border, who aren't talking to each other. They're not coordinating their activities. They often don't even know who their counterpart is across the border. 

[6:00] Very frequently, they don't have the capacity to access, interpret, and apply the best available climate or connectivity models to their decision-making. We have all kinds of things going on that's making it really hard to ensure that we have adequate connectivity in this transboundary area that would allow species to adapt. 

[6:21] The first project that I'm going to talk about is the Washington-Bridge Columbia Transboundary Climate Connectivity Project. The goal of this project was to engage science management partnerships to apply the best available science to inform management activities affecting land and wildlife connectivity in the transboundary region. 

[6:39] We have been scoping this transboundary region for several years to figure out what the information needs were to support decision-making for connectivity, conservation, and climate change. What science was needed, what models were they needed? 

[6:54] We were super excited. I was involved with the Washington Connected Landscapes Project. We've done several years' worth of work of building connectivity models for species and ecosystems around Washington and surrounding areas. 

[7:10] We were excited to see how people were using them and what new science we could do. I remember being at a workshop around the border and asking a group of managers, "OK, what models do you need to guide your decision-making around climate and connectivity?" 

[7:27] I got a total deer in the headlights response, like, "We are completely overwhelmed. We know that climate change is important. We know connectivity is important, but we don't even know what to do with the information that's currently out there, let alone what new science we need." 

[7:42] The message was really clear, that no new models. We do not want new models. We want help accessing, interpreting, and applying existing models. My excitement to build new models went screeching to a halt. 

[7:56] I was like, "OK, we need to have a project where we focus on using existing models to ask how we can adapt connectivity contribution to climate change." 

[8:08] We convened a suite of science management partnerships to work together to gather, interpret, and apply datasets to identify climate impacts, to connectivity in the transboundary region, and then also identify adaptation actions for addressing those impacts. 

[8:25] Because this is a scale-sensitive issue, people are making decisions at different scales with different relevant partners, we identified three nested partnerships. Again, here's the border running east-west. 

[8:37] At this broad scale here around the whole transboundary region outlined in brown, we have the US Forest Service to the south and the National Park Service to the south, and then we have BC Park and BC Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, which was BC FLNRO, and p.4 

 

now is even more of a mouthful of BC FLNRORD, because they include development in there now. This was a few years ago. 

[9:00] Our second partnership here outlined in yellow was the Okanagan-Kettle region. This was the more geographically narrowly-defined area of the area surrounding the Okanagan Valley, place that's under a lot of development pressure to the north and is really important for species moving through the Columbia plateau. 

[9:22] Here, the partnership was pre-determined by the Washington Connected Landscapes Project, which I mentioned a moment ago. They were doing a more local scale analysis. Because we'd identified this as a really key region in earlier work, they were engaging all kinds of land and wildlife managers and local stakeholders to look for local priority areas for connectivity conservation in this region. 

[9:44] We worked with them to incorporate climate change into that analysis. Then our third partnership was with the Okanagan Nation Alliance to the north and the Colville Confederated Tribes in the south. This is a people that have been divided arbitrarily by this border. 

[10:02] We worked at the scale of the traditional territory of the Okanagan Nation Alliance and their member bands. The science partners for all of this were the UW Climate Impacts Group, where I work, and then the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium to the north. They're in Victoria, we're in Seattle. We do really similar work. 

[10:21] Both of us, all of our work is centered on working with decision-makers to incorporate climate change into what they do, to identify impacts of the things that they manage and care about, adaptation strategies, and actions for ameliorating those impacts. 

[10:33] It was a really cool opportunity to work together, to compare notes on how we do this work, build our own collaboration, and then look...Another opportunity at looking at the data barriers, because each of us also produces the kind of science that informs these decisions. It was a great chance to work with them on that. 

[10:54] After some initial discussions with the partners, one of our first workshops was just trying to figure out, OK, what decisions are you making? What are you doing? What are your priorities? What are your concerns about climate change and connectivity? 

[11:09] After these initial discussions of just getting to know the decision-making context and what folks were doing, we decided to focus our work to make it more manageable, because there were such diverse partners involved in this work. 

[11:23] To make it manageable, we decided to focus our work on a suite of case study species and vegetation communities, from salmon, to sagebrush steppe, to wolverine, to tiger salamander. These are key studies. They're not supposed to be umbrella species, because we know that concept breaks down under climate change, because everyone's, to some extent, doing their own thing. 

[11:46] We selected these carefully because not only are they shared priorities across the border, but they also are subject to...They have very different climate sensitivities and exposures, and p.5 

 

would likely have different adaptation actions as well. By looking at a diverse suite of species and systems, we wanted the managers to be exposed to a wide range of climate sensitivities and impacts. 

[12:16] Some species will be sensitive to fire, for example. Some species have different movement ecologies. The actions you could take for a forest species versus a whole vegetation system would be different. 

[12:28] The idea was that if we could develop a process for them for thinking about how to apply climate change and connectivity to their decision-making, that this could be replicated for any number of species or systems, and they could work with their colleagues to expand this. 

[12:42] We just wanted to make sure that we were providing something tractable that we could focus this work on. Once we had our list of case studies, we then had to figure out how to use the range of available existing connectivity models, models that protected change in climate and related impacts, models of projected species range-ship. 

[13:02] All of the different existing data that was available that often isn't consistent across the border. Then how to apply these to identify climate impacts on connectivity, understand novel movement needs under climate change, and identify adaptation actions for addressing these impacts. 

[13:22] Again, no new models. Only existing models. In general, we tried to pick models that were freely available that anyone could use, and that were fairly consistent across the borders as much as we could make that so. The one exception to the no new models was the conceptual models. 

[13:45] Because these were such complicated questions, like how is climate change going to affect the species movement? That's a complicated, big, unwieldy question. We wound up taking a conceptual model approach. If you're not familiar with these, it allows you to take a complicated system and break it down into its key components. 

[14:03] In this case it allowed us to ask the key questions of, "What landscape features affect connectivity for a species? Which of them are influenced by climate? How will future changes in climate affect those features and thus connectivity? Then where can we intervene in this? Where is there data available for us to understand these impacts?" Here's an example from wolverines. 

[14:23] We wanted to capture the relationship between key landscape features. Those are the things in the white box in the key landscape features. Ecological processes would turn purple. Human activities in blue. Then all of these things influence the quality and the permeability of wolverine core habitat and dispersal habitat. 

[14:45] Then here we overlaid climatic variables where we had data that could tell us about projected changes. Those are the things that are outlined in yellow. We have good data on projected changes in snow pack, tree cover, pests, and pathogens. Some are watered up and sit in the fire -- things that might all affect tree cover. p.6 

 

[15:06] The snags, of course, woody debris that are important to core habitat, for example, for wolverines. Then you can see the relationship between these and their core and dispersal habitat with the arrows, where green is roughly a positive correlation. Orange is roughly a negative correlation. Again, these don't necessarily mean that it's better or worse for it. 

[15:27] That's roughly the correlation between them. Once we had these conceptual models, again we could see very simply what affect does connectivity have and then how climate might influence those. 

[15:42] Then where do we actually have data sets that could tell us something about how that climate impact might play out, which would then allow us to think about where we could intervene and identify adaptation actions. If you're not familiar with this, Molly Cross and colleagues have a really great paper. I can't remember the exact name. It's ACT. 

[16:03] A-C-T is the acronym for this conceptual-model approach. It's such a handy approach. I've used it not just for this. It winds up popping into my head for all kinds of problems I'm trying to tackle in our work. 

[16:16] Once we had our conceptual model where we can identify climate impacts and intervention points, we can also then use our connectivity and climate-relevant models to identify priority areas for connectivity conservation. 

[16:29] We can use the spatial information here with what we learn from our conceptual-model approach to think about where we might want to implement the actions, the interventions we identify, for the most impact for those species or systems. We did all of this work collaboratively through workshops with our project partnerships. 

[16:52] The scientists from the climate impacts group, the scientists from PCIC, and then all of those land-and-wildlife managers from both sides of the border sat down together. We worked out together how to develop these conceptual models, which we then also vetted again with some outside experts who might not have been in our region specifically or working on this project specifically. 

[17:14] We did a lot of vetting in those conceptual models. Then we worked together to explore how existing climate and connectivity model outputs could help us identify climate impacts on transboundary connectivity and help us identify adaptation actions to effect those impacts. You're looking at it like, [laughs] "These are all climate model output, connectivity model output." 

[17:38] It's really just poring over these and building folks' capacity to understand what they do and don't mean, how to interpret them, and then how we can apply that to folks' actual decision-making. Really demystifying these models, getting folks familiar with how they can use them, and providing an approach that could be applied to any number of questions around climate and/or connectivity for their decision-making. 

[18:08] In the proposal I put together for the project, I think I wrote in that we would have two big workshops where we'd have breakout for all the partner groups. But with these co-production efforts, these efforts that are really designed and carried out collectively in collaboration with the p.7 

 

scientists and the practitioner partners, you really don't know what's going to work until you get into it, because these are people projects. 

[18:35] Ultimately, this turned into closer to a dozen different events that ranged from workshops like this to smaller meetings where we just had to go to individual partners to talk with them about their needs and work with them on some of this, with intervening phone calls. 

[18:54] We eventually started having a series of smaller webinars and discussions. It wound up being much more interactive and iterative than I had initially planned. I wound up doing quite a bit of leveraging with other smaller grants. I found a bunch of other smaller pots of money to fill in these gaps. 

[19:19] Doing co-production work like this, you have to be nimble [laughs] and pretty entrepreneurial. It's a project that evolved from I initially imagined, but it wound up...That was a really important thing to be responsive to, what folks were able to do in terms of their engagement and respond to that. 

[19:39] Even then, even with all that planning and additional funds and stuff, it was hard to get people in the same room, especially when that meant getting people across the border. Managers often had never met their counterparts across the border, the folks that did the same kind of work that they did on the other side. They often didn't even know who that counterpart was. 

[20:02] Organizing workshops that would allow these folks to interact was really important, but it was also challenged by constraints around travel, international travel in particular. We had a bunch of folks who either weren't allowed to travel internationally at all or maybe they could make one trip total per year, even if we provided the funding. 

[20:21] So we got creative. For example, we discovered that there's a day-use facility in the Peace Arch Park. This is a peace park that's along the Interstate 5 border crossing between Washington and British Columbia. At this peace park, folks from either side of the border can meet in the park without ever having to technically cross the border. It doesn't count as [laughs] international travel to meet at the border of this peace park. 

[20:47] We were able to get folks together. Actually, you can see the Peace Arch right here in the background with the little Canadian flag and the US flag. We were able to get folks together there as a workaround to this travel restrictions. Again, if we want to coordinate transboundary coordination and collaboration among managers and scientists, just getting folks in the same room can be a major challenge. 

[21:13] We did it. Ultimately we were able to use this approach with our conceptual models along with really exploring and poring through these climate and connectivity models as well as the local knowledge and expertise of the land and wildlife managers to identify specific climate impacts on connectivity for each of these case studies, species, and systems. 

[21:40] Everything from increasing risk of wildfire, decreasing snowpack, changes in vegetation, invasive species, changes in seed dispersal, stream temperatures, decreasing stream flow -- a wide range of climate impacts we were able to identify from those conceptual models and the climate-related models that we had on how these would affect connectivity for these key species. p.8 

 

[22:04] Then we were able to identify a whole suite of adaptation actions that could work from anything from just a couple of these species and systems to a wide range of them. These ones that work across a whole bunch -- these might be really good big things options. 

[22:22] For example, in the arid lands on the east side -- this is not as much an issue on the west side of the Cascades, but in that more arid land area in the lower slopes of the Cascades and Rockies, prescribed burns are obviously a really important intervention for preventing the kind of catastrophic wildfires that can alter connectivity and habitat value. 

[22:50] That's a really powerful intervention for maintaining connectivity conservation as well for these species. 

[22:57] For changes in vegetation that could affect connectivity, we all know that monitoring is so important and it's so underfunded and underutilized, but again, for so many of these species, that's going to be a key thing. 

[23:10] If we can't get folks to invest in people doing some of this stuff on the ground, maybe we can use LIDAR, remote sensing, other technologies to get that kind of info for a larger area that would help a whole bunch of our case study species. 

[23:28] In addition to looking at actions to address climate impacts and connectivity, we looked at actions that will enhance connectivity to facilitate species range shifts. For example, if we want to facilitate geographic range shifts for these species, one of the things that would be helpful across these species would be looking for corridors that span, for example, elevational gradients. 

[23:49] For many of these species, this is a two-fer, in that it's something that's important right now. A lot of these species make elevational movements seasonally. It will become more important under climate change if they need to perhaps go even higher at some seasons perhaps as a proxy for moving north, as well, which is another option. 

[24:13] Climate gradient corridors in general were important. We also wanted to look at spatial priorities for implementing climate connectivity adaptation options or actions. There are a whole bunch of options here, but some things are important across many species. We're looking for climate resilience for areas and corridors to maintain connectivity. Areas that are projected to remain climatically suitable. 

[24:42] This is not just from species range shift model. By the way, in using species range shift models, we were very careful to do things like not look at a single model output, but we worked a lot with them in the interest to understand uncertainty and how to account for uncertainty in these models. 

[25:01] For example, not just looking at the model mean output, but looking at the distribution of possible features under different global circulation models, different climate models, and making sure to look at the outliers as well. p.9 

 

[25:16] Picking the hottest, driest feature for example, the much less hot to the relatively cooler, wetter feature, as well as the model mean for different climate scenarios, the different carbon emission scenarios. 

[25:33] For any one species range shift model, we might have a whole suite of possible features that come out of the model. We're looking across those to see if there's agreement among those models in areas that look important across the range of models, or if there's just so much uncertainty that we need more of a bet hedging or scenario planning approach. 

[25:54] That was a key thing in this work too. How do we deal with uncertainty? That was a great thing to work through with the managers as well. 

[26:03] Another thing in this area is that low elevation values are super important. In a lot of these mountainous areas, the low elevation values are key for wildlife movement. They're also key for habitat. Making sure that this is also important for our spatial priority. 

[26:20] There are areas in the Fraser River Valley, the Okanagan Valley, places that we could identify on map that are critical for maintaining wildlife connectivity between these mountain ranges, and also within them. 

[26:33] To make our finding easy to use for the managers, we prepared a whole bunch of different products. We had standalone reports for each of the species and vegetation communities that we worked on. These reports describe the key climate impacts on connectivity that we identified. 

[26:52] It describes the actions for addressing them. What are the adaptation actions they can take? It also identified the spatial priorities for implementation. Where should we be implementing these actions on the landscape to promote connectivity under climate change? 

[27:08] They also included those conceptual models that we use to do this work, as well as maps for all of the climate and connectivity model outputs that were used to inform our work in little descriptions of what those models mean, what the key assumptions are and sources of uncertainty in those models. 

[27:28] We also made everything freely available online. We created a gallery on Data Basin where you can access all of the reports that we put together. There are galleries that have all of the data sets that we used as well. 

[27:47] Again, a few years ago, some of these data sets might look a lot different now or we might use different ones, but this is what we consider to be true and the best available science at the time. 

[27:56] There's a little sub-gallery for each of our case study species and systems where you can get the report and you can get all of those layers that we used, all of the model outputs. On Data Basin, you can layer these things, you can bring in your own layers and see how these align with your own conservation priorities and values. p.10 

 

[28:18] It was really important to us to get a very easy to use, interactive way for folks to access this information because accessing the science was such a key driver for this work. Folks didn't even know how to get hold of this information, so we are trying to make it really easy to do that. 

[28:37] After we had built this gallery and put all the stuff online, we held workshops. We held a series of workshops around the transboundary region that included not just the individual managers we worked with in the project, but also their colleagues. 

[28:51] They brought laptops with them so they could work with the data sets and get their hands dirty, get comfortable using these models. Also developing scenarios in which they could apply them to their work. 

[29:03] We asked people to come with what are some aspects of your work around connectivity and climate change that you have questions about or that are relevant to decision-making. They brought those with them and then they worked on going through these galleries and looking at the data and how it could help support their decisions. 

[29:21] I will say that you can create great tools if you can create great data sets, great science. Sometimes the biggest barrier folks using them is just getting them to sit down and begin. The intimidation factor for climate and connectivity models can be really high for managers who are not working in this field directly, who are not producing the science themselves. 

[29:43] Just taking the time to sit down with folks to walk them through it and train them to use it is really important, and is such an easy way to amplify the impact of your work. 

[29:56] Unlike a typical academic research project, our results weren't as a single peer reviewed paper, instead we had this whole suite of products that included an overview report that describe the key findings and a description of our process as a model for how to collaboratively integrate climate change into connectivity conservation decision-making. 

[30:19] We also had all of our standalone reports for each of the case study species and vegetation systems. We have our online interactive Data Basin gallery with case study reports and all of the associated climate and connectivity maps. 

[30:35] I think one of the most important things that came out of this project was the enhanced capacity and the communities of practice that we built by getting folks involved. We had at least 45 different workshop attendees across the course of the project, and that represented a wide range of agencies and Tribes and NGOs. Hundreds more were reached via our webinars and presentations. 

[31:01] I know personally from working on this project, looking at pretty much everyone [laughs] in these pictures now, these are valued colleagues. These are folks who I'm still in touch with, although I see now some of them have retired. It really was effective at building a community, and folks that people knew they could pick up the phone and call if they had a question about something. p.11 

 

[31:19] If I was to give a key takeaway for this, it's that I really want to make sure folks realize that models alone -- science alone -- isn't enough to inform decision-making. We need to be thinking carefully about what it takes to take that science and really apply it to decision-making. 

[31:38] It requires a lot of support and a lot of thinking about how to translate these really big-picture findings and making them relevant to the decisions that people make, and thinking how to interpret them and apply them. 

[31:57] I think we were very successful, then, in building that capacity and building that collaboration, but we also recognized that capacity and collaboration aren't the only barriers to realizing large landscape connectivity and climate resilience, especially across international borders. 

[32:14] Several years out, I don't see a lot of progress at actual land and wildlife management coordination across the border. I don't see corridors, MOUs, peace park corridors, spanning the border right now. What's preventing that? 

[32:31] If we want to make sure that this kind of work is informed by science, we also know that the kinds of static models that we used in this project -- in other words, models that are really a snapshot of our understanding at a particular time -- these aren't really a good fit for a rapidly changing world. Those models are obsolete the moment they're completed. 

[32:53] It's using the land cover data at that time. It's using whatever climate models and scenarios we had available at that time, species distribution maps we had at that time. Things are changing so fast that those things are already -- it's already out of date sometimes it's many years out of date, by the time you're finished. 

[33:13] It's a ton of work to redo those models. It's a ton of work to get the data you need to keep it up to date. 

[33:19] I want to end by quickly introducing a project we're working on now that aims to address these challenges by going beyond needs for capacity and collaboration to ensure real, successful on-the-ground implementation of climate-smart connectivity at the landscape scale. This is the Cascadia Conservation Climate Adaptation Strategy. 

[33:38] This is an effort underway now in the transboundary region of Washington-British Columbia that's designed to facilitate regional-scale conservation planning in a changing climate. 

[33:48] The goal is to ensure that Cascadia -- and again, this is the area around the Washington-British Columbia border -- ensure that it has natural systems that are resilient to the impact of climate change, that are connected systems that are maintaining their function in the changing climate. 

[34:03] For that to be true -- for us to achieve that -- we need to have decision-makers that are planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating conservation in ways and at scales that are sufficient to support the resilience of Cascadia systems. p.12 

 

[34:16] For that to be true, yes, our land use decision-makers [laughs] need to have the capacity to understand and plan for climate resilience. Yes, they also do need to be collaborating and coordinated across boundaries that support climate resilience. 

[34:29] They also need to be motivated to support climate resilience. They need to have the authority to do it. They need to be empowered to implement decisions that support climate resilience. 

[34:43] They need to have the funding to do it. So often, talking to land and wildlife managers, it's not the science. They could have the best science in the world. They could know exactly what they need to do, but they don't have the mandate to do it. They're not authorized to do it. Even if they were, they don't have the money to do it. Or someone in the work isn't motivated to do it. 

[35:05] This strategy is designed to help facilitate the process and provide the tools needed to make all of these enabling conditions present and working on the landscape, because we know the science alone isn't going to get us there. 

[35:21] The strategy is being led by the Cascadia Partner Forum. The Partner Forum was formed in 2012. It's a network of natural resource managers and stakeholders in Washington-British Columbia who recognize that we have to work across borders for conservation planning at the scale of climate change. 

[35:38] It's been working to develop the adaptation strategy as a necessary effort to coordinate management of our natural lands, our fish, and our wildlife across jurisdictional boundaries in Washington and British Columbia. 

[35:50] It's led by a leadership council that represents some of the key conservation actors on the landscape and who have complementary responsibilities and expertise in land and wildlife management, science, policy, and funding. This is this red area around here is the area we are going to be doing this work for that we're calling Cascadia. 

[36:10] The folks who are engaging in this process, the wider participation is about 35 different institutional entities from both sides of the border that span federal, state, provincial, tribe, First Nation, non-governmental orgs, foundations, and academic partners. 

[36:27] While the strategy is focused on the holistic look at what we need to have connected resilient landscapes in Cascadia beyond good science to support on-the-ground resilience, we also recognize that with the rapid pace of change on the landscape from climate change and human land use, and with the wide range of jurisdictions present at the large landscape scale we're working at, we also need new tools that support conservation planning on a shifting baseline. 

[36:54] We've been working with Google to build a new tool that can provide land and wildlife managers with always up to date information to help guide their decisions. We're moving beyond static models now. We want models that are constantly being updated with the latest information on what's happening in our landscapes. p.13 

 

[37:17] The way that this tool works is that we have an app engine that's running a set of processes on a schedule. It's scheduled right now to run every fall automatically. It's cloud-based. We don't have to manually redo these models. 

[37:31] Once it's activated, the tool automatically updates all the input layers, a lot of which is coming from Landsat imagery that is seamless transboundary as well as whatever we want to put in there on transportation infrastructure, energy infrastructure, topography, climate, soils, whatever it is that we think is going to be useful for giving us this large landscape look at what's going on in the areas that we're concerned about. 

[37:54] The tool then uses Google Cloud technology, Earth Engine, Compute Engine, and Cloud Storage to produce habitat and connectivity models, refugia models, etc. for each of our targets. We're looking at different biomes. We're looking at a bunch of different species of concern. It's synthesizing these spatial models into a spatial prioritization of the landscape. 

[38:24] I'm using whatever the managers and the scientists together decide are important to us for identifying the spatial priorities. We can get outputs of landscape integrity, looking at naturalness of the landscape, looking at habitat connectivity and habitat for different species and biomes. We can look at different disturbances, refugia, spatial priorities. 

[38:46] Then these outputs are linked dynamically to our Web viewer. We get an automatic reporting system that can send you those reports on trends that we're seeing in area of interest. We have an alert system for warning of approaching risk, recovery thresholds, for example, for our targets relative to the goals that we set. 

[39:04] There's also some really awesome communications and storytelling components using Google Earth. The Northwest CASC has funded a module of this tool right now to identify suitable habitat for wolverine in the changing climate. 

[39:19] In the past year with Northwest CASC funding, we've convened a working group of land and wildlife managers who are working with wolverine to together coproduce a model of wolverine habitat using the tool prototype. Here is a very early output from the tool of wolverine denning habitat showing areas that provide consistent, long-term denning habitats. 

[39:46] That green is areas of high suitability for wolverine denning habitat. Red is marginal. Orange is in between. Note that the background image is green as well. That's different from the green of the suitable areas. This is a first output of the tool for this species. Now, we're developing the connectivity models that will be working with this model. 

[40:10] We'll also be adding in models that can help us anticipate how suitable habitat and connectivity could change in the future as climate change progresses. These models are going to be updated automatically every fall with new data from Landsat imagery and other inputs without any additional staff funding or time because they're automated, and they're housed on Google Earth Engine. 

[40:35] That's a huge step above the kinds of models that we were using for our transboundary project. Then if we run the model over multiple years and we get a time series of habitat and connectivity that's useful for assessing trends. We can ask how suitable habitat and connectivity p.14 

 

changing over time, where should we be investing in conservation for wolverine resilience and connectivity. 

[40:56] We can also do evaluation and monitoring. Are we being successful? How is this changing over time and are our interventions making a difference? 

[41:03] I want to make a big shout out to Andrew Shirk, a scientist at the Climate Impacts Group, who's been leading the tool building effort. 

[41:11] Again, the ultimate goal for the strategy using our theory of change here is to look at a series of conservation priorities, like at-risk species like wolverine and others, as well as landscape connectivity, freshwater and riparian habitats and other priorities, and to look at them all through the lens of these five enabling conditions. 

[41:32] Do we have the capacity to do this? Do we have the coordination, the motivation, the authority, the funding? What is working now in those five lenses, and what do we need to put in place so that we have the enabling conditions and to identify key actions and actors and implement on the ground conservation so that we can achieve a connected resilient Cascadia? 

[42:01] We're super grateful to our funders for supporting this pretty ambitious effort and to all of the conservation stakeholders across the transboundary region for engaging in this process. A lot of us have been working on different iterations of this work in Cascadia for a long time. 

[42:17] This is a really exciting next step that really builds off of lessons learned in the past about what might be necessary but is insufficient for achieving on-the-ground action. 

[42:31] Folks are recognizing, I can say, from all of the work that I do outside of this with the Climate Impacts trip in the past, hearing again and again from wildlife managers, that they know, from what they're seeing, they're not going to be able to meet them mandates alone. They can't work as isolated islands in a much larger landscape as it undergoes rapid change. 

[42:50] So we're really excited about this new effort and the chance to build upon all the good work that's going on in our region over the past few years to develop a really effective partnership for large-landscape conservations under climate change in the Northwest. Thank you all so much. 

[43:09] Yeah, thank you so much. 

John: [43:11] Thank you, Meade, for your presentation. Michelle, you're now unmuted, feel free to ask your question. 

Michelle: [43:18] My question is, where can I access that information, the scientific information, and is there a link that I could get ahold of? 

Meade: [43:28] Is that for the database and gallery I showed earlier? 

Michelle: [43:33] Yes. 

Meade: [43:34] Yeah. I can send... p.15 

 

Elda Varela Minder: [43:36] There will be a follow-up email where I will email everyone who signed up, and I can include the link to the taped webinar and also any additional information such as an address link to the website. 

Meade: [43:47] That's fantastic. Thank you so much. 

Michelle: [43:49] Great. Thanks very much. 

John: [43:54] Next question is Bry. 

Bry: [43:55] Excellent. Hi, Meade? 

Meade: [43:56] Hey, Bry. 

Bry: [43:58] I have a question about the last process that you showed, us the automation. Are you creating those models from, let's say, current times into the future or can you [indecipherable] the viewer to set this up, could you go and run the models starting in like 1984? 

[44:18] The reason I'm asking is because when we look at connectivity, a lot of the opportunity has been lost since then. It would be very interesting to understand how much opportunity was lost and to be able to reference that for funders and just give that background as far as how much we lost. Does the model have that capability or is it just from a certain time forward? 

Meade: [44:46] No, it does. I'm pretty sure I've seen it do that already with Hindcast. It does. You can look back as well. I'm pretty sure that that would be an option as well, but yeah, you can. It'll depend on what all you're looking at. 

[45:05] If you're just looking at the satellite imagery that goes back several years, you can do that. But some of the data layers that we might put in there may or may not run back that far. 

Bry: [45:21] OK. Thanks. 

John: [45:22] Next question is Janet Cushing. She says, "Thank you for your presentation. I'll be curious to see how this effort can be done in a virtual setting if we have to do this social distancing thing for a while." She also asks if we could get a copy of the slides afterwards, which could obviously go out with that email that Elda will be following up with you folks on. 

Meade: [45:45] Yeah, I'm happy to share the slides. As far as the remote question, I think we can do a lot of this remotely. In other parts of my work, we have entire workshops and stuff that we have scheduled for the spring that we're switching to online format. 

[46:04] Then also, just completely rethinking how, like for a two-day workshop, we're not going to have a two-day workshop [laughs] that's remote. That's torture. 

[46:14] We've rethought an entire process around how we can set up remote working groups that meet at scattered times over the course of a couple months and how can we make that flexible and creative. I think this is going to be the same thing. 

[46:28] I know some of you are probably maybe really quickly now getting online using things like Zoom, but at the Climate Impacts Group and the Climate Adaptation Science Center, we've p.16 

 

been using Zoom heavily for the last several years. We have entire leadership councils that are almost entirely on Zoom, and it is amazing how... 

[46:55] It is face to face interaction, even though it's not in person. You really can get to know somebody pretty well when you can video chat with them. It's not the same. It's not the same as being truly in person, but you can get a long way toward that. 

[47:11] I think where we are right now...it looks like this could go on for a while. I don't think it's going to serve us to say we have to wait and have in-person workshops when this is all over. 

[47:28] Essentially what we're looking at right now is that we're going to have a bunch of working groups around each of our priority species, and around connectivity, and around the species, and around freshwater and riparian systems, a bunch of the priorities we want to work on immediately. 

[47:46] We're going to set up working groups for each one of those consisting of land and wildlife managers who are working on that issue on either side of the border as well as the scientists. 

[47:54] These are not supposed to be huge groups. What we'll do is have 14 who are really, really hands-on and invested in working on this. It might be a smaller group of maybe 10. 

[48:05] You can do a lot with a 10-person working group online meeting regularly using something like Zoom, and then have larger webinars for the broader interest group and try to do the work that way until the time we're able to meet in person. 

[48:25] It's not ideal, but we can still make a lot of progress. Recognizing the humans, who knows? Things will be evolving quickly in the next several weeks but that's our goal for now. 

John: [48:36] Thank you. Next question is from Maxwell Kelly. "I work in land-use planning in Alberta, and I was wondering if you're aware of any similar types of ongoing initiatives between Montana and Alberta." 

Meade: [48:49] Let me get out of map. "Bry, Bry, you should speak up. [laughs] Isn't that more in your neck of the woods?" There's a whole bunch of different stuff with Y2Y, the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, there's Heart of the Rockies, there's Crown on the Continent. I'm probably muddling up all kinds of geographies here. But there are things to the east of us. I know that for sure. 

[49:15] I think I might be messing up the boundaries of some of those efforts, and some of them are nested within them. There's smaller geographies of concern within the Y2Y region. They're out there. 

John: [49:26] Is it Bry or Bri? Sorry about that. 

Meade: [49:29] Bry. 

John: [49:30] Bry, OK. He said, "All those were right, Meade." p.17 

 

Meade: [49:34] Hmm, all of the above. [laughs] Look up the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, look up Crown on the Continent, and Heart of the Rockies. Oh, there's Crown Managers Partnership, which I think overlaps with one of those too, maybe with Crown on the Continent. 

John: [49:51] OK. I would like to thank Meade, and Elda, and all the people at USGS that helped us with this presentation. 

[49:58] Oops. Kelly asks, "Thanks, Meade. Have you communicated with other parts of the country who are wanting to do similar connectivity conservation work, whether transboundary, cross-state, etc.? It seems like the strategy and tools you presented can be implemented elsewhere. Chile's Google models could be worldwide. I am in the Gulf of Mexico region for context." 

Meade: [50:19] Yeah. Actually, as far as the tool goes...Let's see, David Tao who was leading Google's -- I'm not going to remember what the effort's called but it's basically like the Google for Good arm that takes Earth Engine and helps implement it for these kinds of projects. He recently moved to World Wildlife Fund and he's heavily involved in the tool development. 

[50:48] There's a lot of interest already, like implementing the tool, even as we're building it, in other parts, all the way across the globe right now. This is something we're balancing. Is how to maintain the focus on Cascadia and getting this thing right here versus the need for it elsewhere. 

[51:15] The long-term goal is that this thing, it's being proofed and piloted here in the Cascadia region, but the goal is to make this a globally available tool and to provide support for that in the long run. So yes, it will be available. 

[51:33] As far as other efforts like this, there's a lot of informal discussion and collaboration with other folks who are doing this kind of work, like Nature Conservancy, Y2Y. There's other conservation design work going on here, more to the west of us along the coast. The Cascades to Coast Collaborative, I think I saw John Mankowski on the call here who's working on that. 

[51:59] There are other efforts going on and we don't want to reinvent the wheel even in our process, and so we're definitely keeping an eye out and having discussions with folks around that. There could always be room for improvement with cross-pollination with other efforts. 

John Ossanna: [52:19] Thank you, Meade, for your presentation. Thank you, everyone who was able to attend today. Thank you, and you all have a good day. 

Meade: [52:26] Thanks everybody. Take care.