SYMP 19-8 - Climate change and the interface of human and ecological systems: Recent advances in ecosystem services and climate adaptation

Thursday, August 9, 2012: 4:00 PM
Portland Blrm 251, Oregon Convention Center
Amanda Staudt, National Wildlife Federation, Reston, VA, Peter Kareiva, University of California, Los Angeles, Mary Ruckelshaus, NatureCapital Project, Seattle, WA and Bruce Stein, National Wildlife Federation

As the effects of climate change become increasingly prevalent, there is a growing recognition of the interdependency between human and ecological systems. Climate change puts at risk many of nature’s benefits, or ecosystem services, that humans derive from our lands and waters. The rapidly advancing field of climate adaptation has made significant progress in developing the conceptual framework, planning approaches, and strategies for human interventions intended to safeguard these ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity and other ecological resources. At the same time, the opportunity to use ecosystem services as means to ameliorate climate impacts on human systems increasingly is being recognized, a concept referred to as “ecosystem-based adaptation.” We will present the results of an assessment of the climate change impacts on ecosystem services and the status of relevant climate adaptation efforts.


Understanding of climate impacts on US ecosystem services is relatively undeveloped, primarily because there is no national system for tracking the status or trends of these services.  Even so, there is strong evidence that negative impacts on human wellbeing have already occurred due to climate change through:  increased forest wildfires, reduced carbon storage in coastal marine systems, reduced storm protection, shifting marine fish ranges and localized reduction in fish harvest, decreased trout and salmonid recreational fisheries, shortened season for winter recreation, loss of subsistence hunting for Inupiat communities, and closed campgrounds as a result of drought and wildfire risk.  Continued impacts on provisioning services, nature-based recreation and tourism, coastal protection from storms, and provision of clean water are likely to result in increasing costs.

Federal and state agencies are just beginning to integrate climate change considerations into resource management and actions. Given species range shifts in response to changing climates, static protected areas will not be sufficient to conserve biodiversity, requiring an increased emphasis on landscape-scale conservation, connectivity among protected habitats, and sustaining ecological functioning of working lands and waters. Effective adaptation will require agile and adaptive management approaches, including risk-based framing, stakeholder-driven scenario planning, monitoring, experimentation, and a capacity to evaluate and modify management actions. Climate-change responses employed by other sectors (e.g., energy, agriculture, transportation) are likely to create new ecosystem stresses, but opportunities exist to incorporate ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation to improve their efficacy and reduce unintended consequences for species and ecosystems. Despite major advances, implementation of climate change adaptation strategies and actions still lags research and planning efforts.