Species’ abundance and distribution are dynamic
due to a variety of factors, including climate. As climate
changes, the abundance and distribution of fish and wildlife
will also change. However, it can be difficult to estimate
with precision which species will be affected
by environmental change, and exactly how they will be affected.
Using a landscape conservation approach to strategically connect
the most important blocks of wildlife and aquatic habitat will
be important to allow wildlife to adapt to climate change. This
highlights the need for collaborative and partnership efforts
with landowners, State and local governments, Tribes, federal agencies and conservation organizations.
Fish and wildlife managers will need to take a variety of actions
to address the many climate-related threats to species and ecosystems.
For example, the Service manages America’s National Wildlife
Refuge System and changing climate will force change in the stewardship
of these lands. Some challenges posed by a changing climate might
- Changing fire regimes;
- Changing patterns of rain and snowfall;
- Changing access to water;
- Altered hydrology in rivers and wetlands;
- Increased frequency of extreme weather events;
- Rising sea levels at our 177 coastal refuges.
- Changing abundance and distribution of fish, wildlife,
and plant species.
More broadly, conservation and fish and wildlife management
Continued refinement of regional climate models.
Regional climate change models can lack the spatial resolution
needed to produce ecologically useful data. Finer scale models
are needed to provide information that reflects complex topography
so that better hydrological and habitat information is available.
Regional climate models also need to be combined with other
predictive models on species distribution related to climate
change (climate envelope modeling), other biological responses
to climate change, and human-caused disturbances.
Predicting potential changes in species distributions and
community structure based on current best estimates of climate
The use of climate sensitivity analyses for species and climate-envelope
models to predict future habitats for fish and wildlife is
fundamental to conservation planning for climate change. It
is important to note that these models often do not include
ecological interactions and so require experimental testing
to become dependable predictive tools.
Establishing an array of climate-change monitoring sites
that reflect climate change events in habitats.
An array of climate change monitoring sites that can be used
to evaluate the regional climate models at ecologically important
sites would allow early detection of climate change and help
establish baseline biological data for populations, species,
Establishing experimental areas that will test the potential
to support fish and wildlife in new locations.
As climate change begins to affect habitats, it may become
necessary to evaluate ecological interactions at new locations
and among the new mix of species, as indicated by climate-envelope
predictions. At its simplest, this may involve assisted migration
of individuals from one geographic location to another. More
likely it will involve much more complex, ecologically based
actions that may better be characterized as transition
ecology. The degree to which this can be successfully
accomplished will depend on the level of understanding of species
biology and nature of ecological and community interactions.
Evaluating the current and future need for captive propagation
and seed storage to preserve species.
As climate change moves to more extreme states, there may be
a need to consider maintaining species that no longer have
native habitat in the wild. These species may include currently
listed endangered and threatened species but may also include
many unlisted species that will eventually become endangered
by climate change. Climate envelope modeling can help identify
the species that may eventually need captive propagation and/or
seed storage assistance.
Evaluating the need for future reserves or refuges.
Climate change may mean a changing role for landowners who
manage lands for fish and wildlife conservation. Species may
change as climate change alters habitats. These land managers
will face the challenge of maintaining existing species and/or
transitioning to new species compositions.