Our Work Safeguarding Wildlife and Ecosystems from Climate Change

Glacier in Seaward, Alaska photo by Joe Schmitt

Rapid climate change is putting more than a century of conservation achievements at risk and will have profound implications for the very fabric of the nation's natural systems. Safeguarding our wildlife and ecosystems in the face of climate change has become an urgent priority for the conservation and resource management communities. Referred to as climate change adaption, this work is defining a new era of conservation in the United States and around the world.

Climate change adaption involves steps we can take to cope with current impacts and prepare for future impacts of climate change.

The National Wildlife Federation's Climate Adaption and Resilience work focuses on:

  • Advancing the science and practice of climate-smart conservation.
  • Working with federal, state, and private resource managers to promote the adoption of ecologically-based solutions to climate change threats.
  • Supporting the use of climate-smart adaption solutions that build resilient human communities while enhancing or preserving wildlife habitat.
  • Advocating for changes in land, water, and resource management policies and laws that promote ecosystem-based adaptation strategies.



Moose photo by Robert Drieslein

Wildlife's Future Remains Uncertain

As our native plants and animals respond to changes brought on by climate change, one thing is clear: the ecosystems of tomorrow will be different. Some may even disappear altogether.

Species and ecosystems are often finely tuned to specific and predictable environmental cues, such as seasonal patterns of temperature, precipitation, and day length. The synchronization of responses across many plant and animal species is what allows, for instance, song birds to time their nesting with the emergence of protein-rich insects, and flowers to bloom when their pollinators are available. Similarly, species often have very specific tolerances for heat or cold, as well as for drought or flooding.

As climate change alters the local climate in which our native wildlife evolved and adapted, we are seeing varying responses from wildlife. Some species are able to adapt to the new conditions by changing their behavior, the foods they eat, or by following the migration of their preferred habitats or food sources. Their success, however, may depend on whether or not they are impeded by human development or habitat fragmentation. Other species have little ability on their own to cope with these new conditions and will decline or even go extinct.

Learn more about climate-smart wildlife conservation >>

Achieving the Dual Goals of Wildlife Conservation & Community Protection

Climate change threatens the places we live, too. Rising temperatures and seas, along with increasingly severe storms, put our neighborhoods at risk. Traditional solutions to natural hazards like erosion and hurricanes is to build hard infrastructure features like seawalls and levees. However, gray infrastructure negatively impacts wildlife, and reduces the effectiveness of ecosystems to provide necessary services, like water filtration and stormwater management. Furthermore, they can only be temporary strategies in the face of a rapidly changing climate. Nature-based solutions can help make our communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, while conserving or creating wildlife habitat. Some natural solutions also have the potential to keep pace with climate change, and can be combined with gray infrastructure to be more cost-effective.

Learn more about climate changed threats to our communities >>

Learn more about Nature-Based Solutions >>


More Climate-Smart Topics
Climate Change & Wildlife Webinar Series: The National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the US Fish & Wildlife Service is offering a series of web-based seminars ("webinars") on Safeguarding Wildlife from Climate Change. Presenters have included a number of leading scientists, government officials, and representative from conservation organizations. Archives of these webinars can be accessed here.
Training: Climate-Conservation Course at the National Conservation Training Center

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