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In a time of accelerated change, the North Atlantic LCC helps partners keep pace with new conservation challenges

Learn how the North Atlantic LCC is responding to specific threats that climate change poses for natural resources in our region.

As the thousands of leaders, politicians, scientists, and citizens who gathered in Paris for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change demonstrate, a diverse, global community has mobilized to address climate change both out of conviction and necessity. A complex problem that will have cascading impacts for humans and the environment, climate change demands a multifaceted response. One of the key facets identified in the Paris Agreement reached on December 12th is the importance of working together “to identify concrete opportunities for strengthening resilience, reducing vulnerabilities and increasing the understanding and implementation of adaptation actions."

The North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative provides common ground for partners in 13 states and 4 Canadian provinces to face this problem together, and to contribute their individual strengths to a regional response. Like the 21 other LCCs in the Network, this partnership is answering a call to action for a new approach to conservation. As the founding Secretarial Order for the LCC Network states: “The realities of climate change require us to change how we manage the land, water, fish and wildlife, and cultural heritage and tribal resources we oversee.”

Rather than just conserving discrete resources in separate places, LCCs focus on the fundamental relationships that we need to understand in order to protect these resources in the long run. What are the relationships between systems, habitats, species, and natural processes? How will climate change affect those relationships? And how can we foster relationships between diverse partners to best respond and adapt to those impacts?

Because LCCs were conceived of in part to respond to the challenges presented by climate change, they are uniquely able to address these questions by supporting applied research, collaboration, and action on a landscape scale. In just six years since the establishment of the network, LCCs are rising to these challenges by helping partners keep pace with conservation needs in a time of accelerated change.

Here are some examples of how the North Atlantic LCC is responding to threats to shared resources by supporting efforts to understand and address relationships between between climate, systems, and species.

Our Fall 2015 newsletter highlights recent examples of work motivated by climate change, but we have come a long way since 2009 in understanding the relationships between climate, systems, and species, and equipping partners with the resources they need to adapt and respond. 

Here is an overview of how we are supporting work to address specific threats to shared natural resources in our region:

Air Temperature and Seasons

  • All four seasons are getting warmer and heat waves and droughts are likely to become more frequent, more intense, and longer, forcing plants and animals to either shift their natural ranges northward or upslope or adapt to changing conditions in place in order to persist.

How the North Atlantic LCC is helping to respond:

  • Extension of the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map - This interactive map covering 13 states and 4 Canadian provinces provides a full habitat picture of the North Atlantic region based on field-collected data and national and provincial datasets. By enabling states and provinces to identify terrestrial habitats consistently across borders and analyze regional connectivity, it will strengthen international collaboration toward protecting terrestrial animal and plant populations in the context of climate change.

  • Connect the Connecticut and Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas - These innovative landscape conservation design projects identify places across the region that will be most important to protect and restore in order to allow plants and animals to persist and shift their natural ranges in response to climate change, based on assessments of intactness, resilience, habitat capability, and connectivity.

  • Designing Sustainable Landscapes - This project has already produced a suite of resources that can help natural resource managers plan for climate change, including the Index of Ecological Integrity, which assesses the ability of sites to support biodiversity over time; a set of habitat capability and climate suitability models for 30 species that are sensitive to environmental changes and can represent habitat requirements of species with similar needs, climate stressor metrics, and decade-by-decade climate projections through the year 2080.

  • Permeable Landscapes for Wildlife in the Northeast - This project evaluated and mapped the relative landscape permeability (connectivity) across the 13-state region, determined how permeability coincides with the locations and habitat of species of greatest conservation concern, as well as how to maintain south to north, upslope and riparian connectivity in the face of climate change.

Precipitation, Water Temperature, and Hydrology

  • Precipitation patterns are changing: increasing throughout the winter, and during high-intensity rain events in the summer, and floods are intensifying, increasing risks for human safety and aquatic connectivity.

  • Streams are warming and streamflows are changing and intensifying, threatening species like Eastern brook trout that rely on specific conditions in cold-water habitat.

  • Road-stream crossings in the Northeast fragment aquatic connectivity and are increasingly vulnerable to future floods.

  • Periods of drought are becoming more frequent, and may threaten the availability of vernal pools, which provide critical breeding habitat for species like marbled salamander and spadefoot toads.  

How the North Atlantic LCC is helping to respond:

  • North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC) - This effort unites partners across the region to take on the task of evaluating and prioritizing road stream crossings, and provides them with the resources they need to get the job done - trainings, common protocols, a regional database, and a prioritization system to identify crossings that represent the greatest opportunities for reconnecting aquatic populations and reducing risk to human and natural communities in the face of future floods.

  • Vernal Pool Data Cooperative - This secure spatial database of vernal pool locations across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions is based on input from practitioners in the field, and will help align efforts to protect wetlands that are particularly vulnerable to changing precipitation patterns.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Storms

  • The rate of sea level rise is accelerating globally with some of the highest rates predicted for the North Atlantic coast.  Factoring in land subsidence, the mid Atlantic coast is particularly vulnerable.  Tidal marshes, beaches and other coastal systems are vulnerable to inundation and erosion.

  • More intense coastal storms (hurricanes and tropical storms) are predicted for the Atlantic with major potential impacts to coastal systems and communities.

How the North Atlantic LCC is helping to respond:

  • North Atlantic LCC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facilitated a Structured Decision Making Workshop with coastal land managers and decision-makers to identify objectives and alternatives to help coastal systems persist in the face of sea level rise.  One outcome was the development of a Regional Decision Support Framework for Sea Level Rise developed by U.S.G.S. and the Northeast Climate Science Center.

  • North Atlantic LCC and DOI Hurricane Sandy resilience funding is supporting work to understand how to increase persistence of tidal marshes systems and species including efforts by the  Salt Marsh Habitat and Avian Research Program (SHARP) to coordinate a study of unprecedented scope to characterize threats to tidal-marsh dependent bird species along the entire mid-Atlantic coastline. SHARP will use these data to inform set of metrics for assessing restoration projects, and making recommendations for conservation planning tailored to specific regions and marsh conditions.

  • North Atlantic LCC and DOI Hurricane Sandy resilience fundin) is supporting work to understand how beach systems and beach dependent species including piping plover are responding to sea level rise, storms, and beach management, including efforts by multiple partners including Virginia Tech, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Rutgers University

  • North Atlantic LCC is facilitating a synthesis of coastal ecological and community resiliency efforts across the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

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