Thursday, March 17, 2011

Case Study Highlight:: Managing Biodiversity and Natural Areas in Mexico in the Face of Climate Change

By Alex Score

Climate Change Adaptation in Protected Areas in Mexico for the Conservation of Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services

Mexico is getting pretty serious about climate change adaptation. They are working hard to be ahead of the curve and are experimenting with some interesting adaptation strategies. A clear signal of their intentions is that all of their states are now mandated to develop climate adaptation plans. Resource management agencies and organizations are helping lead the way in the development of standards and innovative solutions to climate impacts. The Commission for Protected Areas in Mexico (CONANP) developed a pilot program with an objective to build a framework that can support the biodiversity and ecosystem services in protected areas.
We all know that the foundation of adaptation for any given species or system is the ability to survive more fully than their competitors. The old adage of “winners” and “losers” in the game of life is proven time and again by Darwin’s Law. While there is no doubt that ecosystems will adapt to our rapidly changing climate, there is tremendous uncertainty in what those ecosystems will look like in terms of biodiversity, stability, and human services. The pilot project launched in Mexico is geared to model how their primary ecosystems will react to the conditions associated with climate change and to both develop and test “practical” adaptation strategies. Note the emphasis on practical. A key component of the study is a cost-benefit analysis of adaptation strategies that includes the likelihood of implementation given the social, political, fiscal, economic, and physical constraints of a given idea. This project recognizes that we cannot wave a magic wand to implement any prescribed adaptation solution. They will need to be understood, supported, and ultimately owned by the people dependent on these ecosystems for their way of life -- never an easy process but it stands the best chance of success if underpinned by good science with demonstrated results.
Stay tuned to this project as it will certainly yield interesting and important results to stock the tool box of climate adaptation tactics and strategies!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

DC in January!

By Lara Hansen

We had a busy week of events in Washington, DC in late January and needed a couple of weeks to recover. In conjunction with the National Council for Science and the Environment’s (NCSE) 11th National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment, the topic of which this year was Our Changing Ocean, we held a symposium and participated in an Island Press book signing event at the meeting itself, and a book reading for Climate Savvy hosted by Defenders of Wildlife.

The symposium, Coastal Adaptation to a Changing Climate: Lessons From America's Coasts,
held on Friday was extremely well attended. The room was filled with more than 70 people. We had a great panel representing four case studies. Amber Mace, Executive Director of the California Ocean Protection Council spoke on efforts in California to implement their coastal adaptation strategy. Ellen Douglas, University of Massachusetts, Boston discussed their developing projects around Boston and coastal Massachusetts to develop adaptation strategies around planning and management. Adam Parris of NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment Program talked about the variety of programs being undertaken by NOAA, as well as his former organization the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Corporation to deal with climate change, especially sea level rise. Finally, Major General Michael Walsh, Mississippi Valley Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spoke about the development of his thinking on why climate change needed to be integrated into his group’s work, including in his region of the Mississippi River in regard to both infrastructure and ecosystem protection. EcoAdapt provided a brief overview of how all of this information was available in the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) and how these were all examples of the types of actions that are already underway to deal with the myriad effects of climate change in coastal systems in North America. Ellen Douglas was the star of the show when the presentation computer gave up the ghost and she set her computer up, loaded everyone’s presentations and kept us rolling. Nice work, Ellen! You win the adaptation prize of the conference. Actually she had already won that by 6am that morning, serving as a last minute replacement speaker and flying out of Boston just ahead of a storm. Kudos to Amber, who didn’t even blink when the computer shut down during her final slide and Ellen and I scrambled under the podium while she fielded questions from above. Such a professional panel! We’ll have more on this session in coming weeks, including the presentations and associated case studies, so stay tuned!

This year NCSE allowed for book signings in the meeting venue (Ronald Reagan Conference Center) and Island Press acted as book signing central for all authors at the event. For our signing of Climate Savvy, held immediately after our symposium, we were positioned between Steve Palumbi with his new book on the fate of the Monterey Bay
and Andy Revkin with his latest book on climate change, The North Pole was Here. It was conveniently located next to the lunch line so we got a lot of people by to chat, including some book purchasers. The most gratifying moment was when Lisa Granquist of Northeastern University came up to tell us that she had purchased the book the day before and was thrilled to find that it was exactly what she was looking for as a text for courses on the significance of climate change for law and policy. She’d already called their dean to discuss its adoption.

The book reading actually happened earlier in the week at the Defenders of Wildlife building uptown from the conference. It was also well attended. We had not only a good showing of the usual adaptation suspects and friends that populate DC but also by a cohort of new blood, people I had never seen at an adaptation meeting before. Following a dramatic reading of some key excerpts from the text itself, perhaps to the horror of people who seemed to think this was not what was done at nonfiction book events, the audience was a little slow to ask questions, but once they got going it was a pretty lively conversation about everything from the basics of adaptation, to the standard how do you get people to care, to the more specific “how do we get Steve Inskeep of NPR to care?” (Apparently Steve and his guest had besmirched wildlife adaptation on air that morning, believing it had something to do with giving polar bears air conditioners, when of course we all know that adaptation is really about teaching pikas to fly. Listen or read for yourself.) Special thanks to Bob Irvin and Noah Matson for hosting us in their great conference room and the friendliest introduction ever, and to Island Press for supplying food, drink, books to sign, and a well run event.

And a round of thanks to everyone who attended any of our events in DC! Without you there is no reason to visit.