Climate change poses one of the most significant conservation threats of the 21st century. The Earth’s climate is changing at an accelerating rate that has the potential to cause abrupt changes in ecosystems and increase the risk of series extinction.
Major ecological effects include habitat transformation, species range shifts, altered phenology, sea-level rise, drought and desertification, increased fire severity, prairie pothole drying, coral bleaching, permafrost melting, numerous hydrological effects, and storm intensification. Climate change also exacerbates such problems as invasive species, environmental contamination, and wildlife diseases. In general, climate change severely compromises the ecological integrity of North American and global landscapes.
The basic responses to climate change in the conservation community are adaptation, mitigation, and engagement (including education). Planning has a key role to play in each of these responses. To help guide such planning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped develop two national climate change strategic documents, Rising to the Urgent Challenge and the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. In addition, the Refuge System and its partners produced Planning for Climate Change on the National Wildlife Refuge System (Documents may not be fully supported in Firefox.).