New Wildlife and Climate Studies for the NE CSC

Monday, January 6, 2014

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced recently that Interior’s Northeast Climate Science Center is awarding just over $800,000 to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

"Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country," said Secretary Jewell. "These new studies, and others that are ongoing, will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change."

The six funded studies, plus tribal support and one that will be conducted jointly with the Southeast CSC, focus on how climate change will affect natural resources in the northeastern U.S. and management actions that can be taken to help offset such change. They include:

  • Developing tools to identify the refugia sites where vulnerable spruce ecosystems are most likely to persist as climate changes. Linking climate-forest models to bird-habitat models will determine which of those refugia sites have the greatest richness of high-priority bird species across climate scenarios.
  • Forecasting how forests in New England will change between now and the end of the century under different climate and landscape change scenarios. Understanding how these economically and ecologically valuable forests might respond to climate change is important so that managers can develop approaches to enhance the ability of these forests to be resilient and adapt to changing climate conditions.
  • Developing a robust decision-support information system to assess vulnerabilities and identify sites most suitable for grassland bird species as climate changes in the future. Prairie ecosystems and many grassland birds, already stressed by habitat fragmentation, are especially vulnerable to rapid shifts in climate. These impacts are exacerbated by drought and extreme weather events.
  • Conducting two separate projects that assess stream condition, water quality and habitat connectivity; together, these projects will inform a decision support mapper that resource managers and policy makers can use to help protect and conserve stream fishes and stream ecosystems, as well as a data portal to help model and monitor stream temperatures. Increasing stream temperature can have significant adverse effects on the welfare and distribution of aquatic life, including economically important fishes.
  • Helping decision-makers use adaptive management and other tools to develop effective landscape-scale strategies to manage vulnerable headwater streams overseen by multiple agencies. In the Northeast, these areas are important habitat for trust species such as brook trout and stream salamanders, yet growing evidence indicates that these coldwater streams are especially susceptible to changing climates.
  • In a joint project with the Southeast CSC, researchers will address a complex local-scale conservation problem: helping resource managers effectively address the impacts associated with sea-level rise and coastal flooding on migratory waterbirds and their habitats.
  • The College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute will coordinate a summit aimed at tribes and climate change; the summit will be developed specifically to bring together the Northeast Climate Science Center with American Indian practitioners and scientists. This summit will help American Indian tribes build their ability to adapt to and be resilient to the impacts of climate change through implementing adaptive measures and decisions.

"In the Northeast United States, it is vital that we work on climate change effects now to better prepare our communities, ecosystems, and species for the future," said Mary Ratnaswamy, director of Interior’s Northeast Climate Science Center. "These and other ongoing studies are aimed directly at the people who need them: managers and policy makers already grappling with the effects of climate change. Indeed, they are our partners in identifying priority resources, sharing available data, setting goals, and working together to solve the challenges of adapting to climate change."

Each of the Department of the Interior's eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs, and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists from the universities that comprise the Northeast CSC, from USGS science centers and Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units, and from other partners such as the states, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service, Indian tribes, state fish and wildlife agencies, other DOI Bureaus, and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in each region.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network, and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of Interior's U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior's strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior's CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The Northeast Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and also works with a consortium of institutions: the College of Menominee Nation, Columbia University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, Columbia, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  The NE CSC conducts climate science for Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri.

Useful links:

Northeast CSC projects

Northeast CSC Homepage

NE CSC's Consortium Website

Full list of funded projects for all eight DOI Climate Science Centers


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