The Northeast region is characterized by four distinct seasons and a diverse landscape. These play a role that is central to the region’s cultural identity, quality of life, and economic success. The seasonal climate, natural systems, and accessibility of certain types of recreation are threatened by declining snow and ice, rising sea levels, and rising temperatures. As both the most heavily forested and most densely populated region in the country, challenges are complex and unique.
Climate change has already begun affecting the physical and biological environments of the Northeast region, and is expected to intensify in coming decades. As a consequence of increasing temperatures, sea level will rise by at least 1m this century, with even greater coastal impacts from storm surges in areas that have seen major population increases. These physical changes may lead to large numbers of evacuated and displaced populations and damaged infrastructure; sustaining communities may require significant investment and planning to provide emergency response efforts, a long-term commitment to rebuilding and adaptation, and support for relocation.
All of these changes will have profound effects on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems across the region, changing forest types and aquatic environments, affecting fish community structure and the timing of migratory wildlife. Understanding how climate affects habitats and other conditions for fish and wildlife populations will be essential for decision makers challenged with balancing multiple land uses, including agriculture, forestry, water allocations, energy, and transportation. Obtaining the best regional estimates for a range of probable climate change scenarios is a critical task to aid natural resource managers and other stakeholders.
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