Climate Change Adaptation Principles

Since the field of climate change adaptation is still developing, National Wildlife Federation has convened a group of conservation experts from federal and state agencies as well as other non-profits to write basic guidelines describing good climate-smart conservation. These "key characteristics" are intended to help natural resource professionals make their plans for wildlife and wildlife-habitat climate-smart.

The draft characteristics outlined here were presented at the Adaptation 2011 Workshop in June 2011, and will be the basis of a full length guidebook that NWF hopes to publish in 2012.

Key Characteristics of Climate-Smart Conservation

1. Actions Linked to Climate Impacts

Conservation strategies and actions are designed specifically to address the impact of climate change in concert with existing threats; actions are supported by an explicit scientific rationale.

2. Forward-Looking Goals

Conservation goals focus on future, rather than past, climatic and ecological conditions; strategies take a long view (decades to centuries) but account for near-term conservation challenges and needed transition strategies.

3. Broader Landscape Context

On-the-ground actions are designed in the context of broader geographic scales to account for likely shifts in species distributions, to sustain ecological processes, and to promote collaboration.

4. Robust in an Uncertain Future

Strategies and actions provide benefit across a range of possible future conditions to account for uncertainties in future climatic conditions, and in ecological and human responses to climate shifts.

5. Agile and Informed Management

Conservation planning and resource management is capable of continuous learning and dynamic adjustment to accommodate uncertainty, take advantage of new knowledge, and cope with rapid shifts in climatic, ecological, and socio-economic conditions.

6. Minimizes Carbon Footprint

Strategies and projects minimize energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and sustain the natural ability of ecosystems to cycle and sequester carbon and other greenhouse gases.

7. Climate Influence on Project Success

Considers how foreseeable climate impacts may compromise project success; generally avoids investing in efforts likely to be undermined by climate-related changes unless part of an intentional strategy.

8. Safeguards People and Wildlife

Strategies and actions enhance the capacity of ecosystems to protect human communities from climate change impacts in ways that also sustain and benefit fish, wildlife, and plants.

9. Avoids Maladaptation

Actions taken to address climate change impacts on human communities or natural systems do not exacerbate other climate-related vulnerabilities or undermine conservation goals and broader ecosystem sustainability.

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