Interior’s Northeast Climate Science Center Releases Report to Help State Wildlife Managers in the Northeast and Midwest Alleviate Impacts of Climate Change on Species and Ecosystems

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Interior Department’s Northeast Climate Science Center has released a report today synthesizing the latest information on the vulnerability of species and ecosystems to climate change in a 22-state region in the Northeast and Midwest U.S.

AMHERST, MASS—Interior Department’s Northeast Climate Science Center has released a report today synthesizing the latest information on the vulnerability of species and ecosystems to climate change in a 22-state region in the Northeast and Midwest U.S.  

State fish and wildlife agencies in these regions will use the report to help them update their 10-year conservation plans to help hundreds of animal species and their habitats adapt to climate change.

“This useful report comes on the two-year anniversary of the President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which calls not only for reducing carbon pollution, but also for being prepared to avoid or alleviate the predicted impacts of climate change,” noted Suzette Kimball, acting director of the United States Geological Survey, which manages Interior’s eight climate science centers. “The Department of the Interior and its partners will use this information to protect many of America’s most iconic species ranging from whales and moose to tiny birds such as sparrows and warblers, as well as freshwater aquatic species including herring, brook trout, and mussels.”

Species of greatest conservation need identified in the report include moose, brook trout, American shad, Atlantic sturgeon, spruce grouse, piping plover, freshwater mussels and hundreds of other animal species and their habitats.

“This report will assist state natural resource managers in developing science-based conservation and adaptation actions that can help offset adverse effects of climate change on their state’s most climate-vulnerable species and ecosystems,” said Michelle Staudinger, lead author and USGS ecologist at the Northeast CSC, which is based at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

The Northeast CSC region stretches from Maine to Minnesota, Missouri and  Maryland. The center is one of eight regional climate science centers established during the Obama Administration.  The mission of the Interior climate science centers, which are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey, is to guide policy makers and managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural areas about how to help species, ecosystems and human communities adapt to climate change.

The report, Integrating Climate Change into Northeast and Midwest State Wildlife Action Plans, is a tool to assist in the revision of 10-year state plans due in October 2015. State coordinators have been challenged to incorporate climate change impacts and species responses into their current revisions.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first regional synthesis of impacts on and responses by fish and wildlife to climate change,” said Staudinger. “The content of the report was developed through a stakeholder-driven process in which we specifically asked the states what they needed to know to inform their action plans, and then researched and delivered it.”

John O’Leary, assistant director of wildlife with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and member of the Interior Department’s advisory committee on climate change adaptation science, says the new report will be extremely valuable to state planners. “Including climate change in our action plans is critical,” O’Leary said. “With this report, the Northeast Climate Science Center provides us with the science, and we are the ones who will put it into action. We at the state level are trying to save many of our common species from facing really difficult problems in the future.”

“Natural resource managers in the northeastern and midwestern United States are faced with enormously complex challenges in dealing with the effects of climate change on habitats, species and ecosystems,” said Mary Ratnaswamy, director of the Northeast CSC.  “This report is designed to provide managers and policy makers with the science they need to sustain their state’s natural heritage.”

The report details how the Northeast and Midwest Regions of the United States “are vulnerable to a range of climate threats including extreme temperatures, heavy precipitation, sea level rise, and warming lake waters in the Great Lakes.”  It notes that, “These changes are likely to cause widespread ecosystem disruption in the region … resulting in adverse effects on wildlife.”

The in-depth document includes maps, charts and synthesis tables; and provides summaries of climate change assessments and projections for more than 30 climate factors such as air temperature, precipitation, soil moisture and sea level rise. It also has a regional overview of existing climate change vulnerability assessments, plus information on species and habitats at greatest risk to climate impacts. It offers short- and long-term adaptation strategies and actions available to natural resource agencies for conserving wildlife and ecosystems.

Report authors Staudinger and Toni Lyn Morelli are both USGS ecologists at the Northeast CSC, as well as adjunct faculty in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Author Alexander Bryan is a postdoctoral fellow with the USGS and the Northeast CSC. The authors collaborated with a range of partners including the environmental firm Terwilliger Consulting, the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science and the Wildlife Conservation Society, as well as received input from State Wildlife Action Plan coordinators, the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The Northeast CSC conducts climate change science for Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.  More: http://necsc.umass.edu/projects/integrating-climate-change-state-wildlife-action-plans

The Northeast CSC is supported by a consortium of partners that includes the University of Massachusetts Amherst, College of Menominee Nation, Columbia University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri Columbia, and University of Wisconsin. The NE CSC also engages and collaborates with a diversity of other federal, state, academic, tribal, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to conduct collaborative, stakeholder-driven, and climate-focused work to help species, ecosystems and human communities adapt to climate change.