Climate-Smart Conservation

  • Bruce Stein, Patty Glick, Naomi Edelson, and Amanda Staudt
  • Jun 06, 2014

The National Wildlife Federation and an expert workgroup consisting of leaders in climate adaptation from federal and state agencies and non-governmental organizations offer guidance for designing and carrying out conservation in the face of a rapidly changing climate. This guide will help conservationists and resource managers incorporate climate change considerations into their work. The report demystifies the discipline of climate adaptation by offering a common-sense approach to adaptation planning and implementation that breaks the process into discrete and manageable steps.

Making Conservation Climate-Smart

An important goal of the guide is to help practitioners and policy-makers understand what constitutes “good” climate adaptation, and how to recognize those characteristics in existing work, as well as how to design new interventions when necessary. In particular, the guide emphasizes four overarching themes in the practice of climate-smart conservation:

  • Act with intentionality through linking actions to impacts
  • Manage for change, not just persistence
  • Reconsider goals, not just strategies
  • Integrate adaptation into existing work

Key Characteristics of Climate-Smart Conservation

To assist practitioners in distinguishing when and whether climate considerations are suitably being incorporated into conservation work, the guide identifies several key characteristics that collectively define a climate-informed approach to conservation:

  • Link actions to climate impacts
  • Embrace forward-looking goals
  • Consider broader landscape context
  • Adopt strategies robust to uncertainty
  • Employ agile and informed management
  • Minimize carbon footprint
  • Account for climate influence on project success
  • Safeguard people and nature
  • Avoid maladaptation

The Climate-Smart Cycle

Carrying out effective climate adaptation involves an array of activities that can at first seem confusing. This guide offers a generalized framework—the Climate-Smart Conservation Cycle—that demonstrates how the various steps of the adaptation process fit together. Indeed, the heart of the guide is a detailed exploration of how to carry out these various steps in ways that are appropriate to the unique needs of different resource managers or conservationists.

Climate-Smart Conservation

Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice


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