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Determining climate change management priorities: A case study from Wisconsin

December 1, 2015

A burgeoning dialogue exists regarding how to allocate resources to maximize the likelihood of long-term biodiversity conservation within the context of climate change. To make effective decisions in natural resource management, an iterative, collaborative, and learning-based decision process may be more successful than a strictly consultative approach. One important, early step in a decision process is to identify priority species or systems. Although this promotes the conservation of select species or systems, it may inadvertently alter the future of non-target species and systems. We describe a process to screen terrestrial wildlife for potential sensitivity to climate change and then use the results to engage natural resource professionals in a process of identifying priorities for monitoring, research, and adaptation strategy implementation. We demonstrate this approach using a case study from Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, experts identified 23 out of 353 species with sufficient empirical research and management understanding to inform targeted action. Habitat management and management of hydrological conditions were the common strategies for targeted action. Although there may be an interest in adaptation strategy implementation for many species and systems, experts considered existing information inadequate to inform targeted action. According to experts, 40% of the vertebrate species in Wisconsin will require near-term intervention for climate adaptation. These results will inform state-wide conservation planning as well as regional efforts.

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