US Government report urges immediate adoption of ecosystem adaptation strategies

By agency reporter
June 21, 2008

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A key US government report has concluded that climate change is having a significant and irreversible impact on sensitive ecosystems and resources and urges the immediate implementation of ecosystem adaptation strategies.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) officials called on Congress and the administration to provide the leadership, funding and reforms that federal managers require to implement the report’s recommendations.

The report from WWF, Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources, finds that climate change is stressing natural systems with such intensity and rapidity that concerted efforts must be taken to help ecosystems adapt to climatic shifts.

The report warns: “If the management cultures and planning approaches of agencies continue with a business-as-usual approach, it is likely that ecosystem services will suffer major degradation. It is the opinion of this report’s authors and expert stakeholders that we may be seeing a tipping point in terms of the need to plan and take appropriate action on climate adaptation.”

“Make no mistake, if we do not begin slashing emissions, and doing so substantially, many of these ecosystems will have no chance of survival,” said Dr. Richard Moss, WWF vice president for climate change. “As this report shows, it’s time we start thinking differently about climate change and recognize that irreversible impacts are already happening. We must move forward on a two-pronged approach: reducing emissions through domestic legislation and a new international climate treaty, and a developing a focused national preparedness effort to address the rapidly growing impacts of climate change.

“The warming that we’ve already experienced has set in motion significant shifts in the climate that will continue regardless of any mitigation efforts we undertake.”

The report, the second in as many days from the government’s Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), which Moss previously headed, outlines options for government managers to implement for federal lands and waters, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and marine protected areas. “Although there are constraints and limits to adaptation, some adaptation measures can go a long way toward reducing the loss of ecosystem services and limiting the economic or social burden of climate disruption,” the report says.

Dr Sybille Klenzendorf, Director of Species Conservation for the charity WWF, urged federal land-use and resource managers to implement the recommendations. “As the authors of the report note, we may be nearing a tipping point in terms of the ability of some ecosystems to weather the increasing stresses of climate change. This report outlines in great detail specific adaption strategies for federal lands – from Rocky Mountain National Park to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. They should be implemented immediately.”

Klenzendorf noted that WWF is on the ground in several countries around the world developing, testing and implementing new mechanisms to bolster the adaptive capacity of threatened species and ecosystems.

To ensure the successful implementation of the recommendations in the report, the authors urged changes in management practices as well as additional research and monitoring capacity. They also called for greater funding for federal research managers: “Managers may lack sufficient resources to deal with routine needs,” the report says, adding that they “may have even fewer resources available to address unexpected events, which will likely increase as a result of climate change.”

For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The largest multinational conservation organization in the world, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by close to 5 million people globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level, from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature. It encourages people to sponsor animals and adopt animals.

The report, Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources, is available online:

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