Monday, October 25, 2010

Planning for climate change to protect Florida's reefs

By Alex Score

We have been witnessing climate change impacts in Florida for over 30 years. The impacts of sea level rise into bays and estuaries, eroding shoreline and inundating aquifers is now very real. We are also beginning to understand the effects of ocean acidification, caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide into the ocean and making carbonate less available for organisms to build shells or skeletons, such as lobster, shrimp, and coral reefs. The ocean is also getting warmer leading to coral bleaching and diseases which can lead to coral death.

We are also experiencing coastal marine habitat degradation, overfishing, and impaired water quality including unknown impacts from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and dispersant applications in the Gulf of Mexico. These stressors all compound upon one another challenging and risking Florida’s coastal and marine areas. This is especially true for the Florida reef system, which expands 350 miles from the Dry Tortugas, along the entire length of the Florida Keys and up the south Florida mainland off Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties. The services from this unique ecosystem generate 71,000 jobs and $6.3 billion in sales and income annually. The continued degradation and loss of the Florida reef system will irrevocably change the south Florida way of life. At some point, we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to do what it takes to sustain these services for the not so distant future.

To respond to these compounding climate change and habitat degradation threats, a group of managers, scientist, reef users, and environmental organizations worked together over the past two years to develop a plan to address climate change impacts to Florida’s coral reefs, The Climate Change Action Plan for the Florida Reef System 2010-2015 (Action Plan). This is the first plan of its kind in Florida that builds on the concept of “resilience” or the ability of corals to resist and tolerate negative impacts, and recover. The Action Plan is an innovative effort to help a region deal with the reality of climate change. We envision it as a catalyst to spur climate adaptation beyond the Florida Reef System—up the Florida peninsula and across the Caribbean.

The Action Plan involves local actions that need to be implemented across political, social, and jurisdictional boundaries that provide an insurance policy for the sustainability of these reef systems. It is designed to accomplish three main goals: 1) increasing reef resilience through active management, 2) enhancing resilience of reef-dependent communities and industries via outreach and adaptation planning, and 3) conducting targeted research. It includes 22 management actions, 10 social resilience and outreach actions, and 8 research priorities for the region, which, if implemented, are designed to increase the resilience of the Florida reef system throughout the five counties.

EcoAdapt coordinated this effort along with Florida Reef Resilience Program and The Nature Conservancy. The Action Plan will serve as the framework for climate change management, education, and research priorities for Florida's coral reefs. Its success will be determined by the successful implementation regionwide.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Association of Fish and Wildlife 100th Annual Meeting, September 2010

By Rachel M. Gregg

Last month EcoAdapt and CAKE staff attend the Association of Fish and Wildlife’s 100th Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids, MI. We joined over 600 fish and wildlife professionals including directors of many state fish and wildlife agencies and their counterparts in federal agencies.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) represents the collective voice of state, provincial, and territorial agencies to all levels of government on key fish and wildlife issues. The Association also coordinates between state agencies on a variety of transboundary issues, represents the agencies on Capitol Hill, and provides technical support and training. The AFWA Annual Meeting serves primarily as a business meeting for the association members to meet and discuss priorities and cross-cutting issues for the coming year and challenges or concerns agencies are having at a state level.

Climate change and climate change adaptation were major topics of discussion at committee meetings. Overwhelmingly committee members expressed confusion over what qualified as an adaptation project and a need to see examples of adaptation projects. Luckily, we had the opportunity to speak to a variety of committees about CAKE. We received great feedback from our presentations and there was a big interest in using case studies on CAKE as training tools and for examples to aid staff in their own adaptation planning.

We look forward to engaging with the AFWA community and others in the future!

Musings on a plethora of adaptation workshops

By Jennie Hoffmann

Over the past three weeks, I’ve been to three workshops related to climate adaptation. One, focused on the Great Lakes, included participants from U.S., Canadian, and tribal governments as well as folks from environmental, academic, and industry groups. Organized by the National Wildlife Federation, the Great Lakes Commission, the Council of Great Lakes Industries, and the US EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the workshop aimed to inform GLRI funding and action, identify needs across sectors for carrying out adaptation, and provide input to federal agencies on incorporating climate change into their work. The second was a Climate Camp-style workshop I was helping to lead at the annual Land Trust Rally (http://www.cakex.org/lta). Participants came from diverse land trusts, non-profits, and government agencies, and the focus was approaches to incorporating climate change into land acquisition, management, restoration, and policy. The last was a scenario planning training workshop for National Park Service employees run by the Global Business Network and the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program. Scenario planning can help managers and planners focus on making robust decisions in the face of uncertainty, and this workshop was one of several being held to help the Park Service adapt to climate change.
 
Although the settings, participants, and particular foci of the workshops were different, the similarities underlined some key realities. First, the very existence of these diverse workshops shows that more and more people understand the importance of adapting their work to climate change, regardless of how they feel about whether humans are contributing to it. Second, the fact that all three workshops involved some level of active participation and engagement by participants underlined the growing realization that the “loading dock” approach of dumping heaps of information on people and expecting them to sort it out simply doesn’t work. People need to be able to engage with material, question it, dig deeper to figure out its relevance to and implications for their own work.

Finally, discussions at each workshop brought home the reality that while there are some guidelines and standards that can be applied across the board there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution. The goals and context—ecological, cultural, climatic, regulatory, etc.—strongly influence what is needed and what will be effective. For me, this is what makes the case studies in CAKE so valuable. They help move us towards a set of good practices for adapting to climate change while illustrating the range of options, forming a menu of choices on which others can build.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Salt Lake City Tribune Article on CAKE and Lara's Response

Our October 2nd workshop at The Wildlife Society's Annual Conference in Snowbird, Utah was kindly covered in the Salt Lake City Tribune in an article entitled "Climate change solutions go digital." The reporter did a great job in summarizing our efforts with CAKE and our partners at Data Basin. Lara wanted to providing some clarifying remarks on a couple of quotes and sentiments attributed to her, which you can find here.

Thank you for the coverage!