Wednesday, May 19, 2010

National Academy of Sciences Releases 3 Reports on America's Climate Choices

By Kirsten Feifel

Today, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released three reports on “America’s Climate Choices.” The NAS was commissioned by Congress in 2008 to develop policy relevant advice on how the United States should respond to the threats and potential impacts of climate change. The reports were produced by NAS panels on the magnitude of future climate change, adapting to the impacts of climate change, advancing the science of climate change, and informing effective decisions and actions related to climate change. In sum, approximately 90 experts from academia, government, nongovernmental organizations, and industry participated in America’s Climate Choices.  

Of particular interest to us at EcoAdapt is the 243 page report “Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change.” The report calls for a national adaptation strategy and program, supported by federal technical and scientific resources but predominately implemented at the state and local levels. Adaptation measures will generally be place-based and case specific; however, many of the required resources and information needs are ubiquitous. The report highlights the idea that effective adaptation is fundamentally a risk management strategy - an insurance policy against an uncertain future.  Initially, adaptation strategies that are low-cost with win-win outcomes and near-term benefits are likely the most desirable.

This report has made us even more excited about the CAKE (Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange) project! The NAS panel recommends that practitioners at all levels - federal, state, and local - begin collaborating to learn from each other and exchange adaptation ideas. CAKE provides the perfect venue for this collaboration; it will have case studies, a directory of practitioners, and offer resources to support climate change adaptation efforts. What the NAS recommends is what CAKE will provide; how timely!  Look for the official CAKE launch on July 4, 2010 -     

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Using a Precautionary Approach to Manage North Pacific Fisheries Under Uncertainty

By Rachel M. Gregg

There are many projects that target specific climate impacts like sea level rise, increased storm surges, and habitat loss. There are also projects that aim to limit or eliminate non-climate stressors, such as destructive fishing practices, overfishing, pollution, diseases, invasive species, and others. The cumulative effects of these stressors interact directly with climate change and will impair ecosystem resilience. For example, temperature, pH, and salinity all influence the toxicity of various chemicals and will all be affected by climate change; for example, increased water temperatures can influence photosynthesis rates of plants and metabolic rates of animals and decrease dissolved oxygen levels which may lead to hypoxic conditions. 

Examples of this strategy include reducing land-based pollution to limit coral bleaching, incorporating climate change scenarios into fisheries management to adjust for shifts in species’ ranges, and reducing activities that alter natural sediment fluxes to limit erosion. For instance, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is authorized to manage fisheries within Alaska's state waters, including the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The Council has adopted a precautionary approach to commercial fishing activities in the region and has established limits to minimize bycatch, seasonal restrictions, and gear requirements to diminish negative effects on mammals, birds, and habitat. The Council has also created protected areas to protect fragile habitats like deep sea corals.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Acidifying oceans: A Florida research project

By Rachel M. Gregg

There are very limited adaptation options for dealing with ocean acidification; one project from our inventory involves increasing scientific understanding of ocean chemistry to inform policy and management.

The FLaSH Ecosystem Project, based out of Florida's USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center,  builds upon earlier efforts to conduct benthic habitat mapping in Florida by including consideration of climate change impacts, especially ocean acidification, on living marine resources along the shelf. Scientists are studying ocean chemistry to better understand the impacts of higher levels of atmospheric CO2 on marine and coastal resources. They are examining baseline carbon and carbonate data and the process of biogenic calcification along the east and west shelves of Florida. Both shelves are located along a gradient of temperate and subtropical climates. Scientists are examining the distribution changes between benthic assemblages in temperate and subtropical zones to find evidence of ocean acidification effects on calcifying organisms. In addition, researchers are using satellite data to provide a view of how the Florida shelf is responding to environmental change over time. Results of this project will inform policy and science decisions on potential remediation efforts to protect living marine resources along Florida’s shelf. Partners include the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, NOAA, Eckerd College, Clean Beaches Council, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. For more information, check out