Embracing Change: Adapting Conservation Practices to Address a Changing Climate

From the Wildlife Conservation Society, this report contains case studies on conservation organizations that are “strategically altering their approaches to keep pace with climate change.” 12 featured organizations are examined for their climate informed strategies, and innovative long-term goals that are ready to evolve with the impacts of climate change. Wildlife Conservation Society is calling the examples in this report “the hopeful side of climate change.” 

This resource was featured in the December 13, 2018, ASAP Newsletter.

"Conservation ecologists are changing how they focus their work in order to maximize return on investment. This report from the Wildlife Conservation Society includes the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY of of innovative and targeted conservation practices for wildlife and ecosystems, with case examples throughout to illustrate the finer details of integrating adaptation into conservation ecology."

The report includes the following elements:

This portfolio of climate-informed conservation practices describes innovations in support of adapting wildlife and ecosystems to climate impacts. The projects are discussed in terms of how they have modified the “what, where, when, and why” of climate conservation practices. Here is how these terms are described and reflected in the case studies:

What - Practitioners are introducing new or modifying current actions in ways that make them more effective in light of climate variability and projected changes.

Where - Conservationists are working in new or strategic locations to target places where longer term maintenance of species, populations, ecosystem services or other values is more likely.

When - To stay ahead of or keep pace with a changing climate, the need for action may become more urgent, or actions may be needed at different times of year.

Why - the goal of conservation projects may evolve as climate change affects a place or ecosystem, leading practitioners to focus on new threats or targets. 

The following projects are described:

  • North River of Vermont and New Hampshire: Super-sizing stream restoration actions to increase their effectiveness during bigger floods
  • Bottomland forests in Illinois and Indiana: Altering restoration planting mixes to foster species expected to thrive under future conditions
  • Pacific walrus haul outs in coastal Alaska: Taking new actions to address changing wildlife behavior
  • Forest habitat for native birds in Hawaii: Working upslope from current protected areas to connect to climate refugia
  • Sagebrush steppe ecosystems in Colorado: Locating restoration projects in areas projected to be suitable in the future
  • Mountain streams in Montana: Prioritizing stream restoration in basins that are more likely to sustain late season flows
  • Coastal marshes in Maryland: Preventing rapid ecosystem loss as sea level rises
  • Central hardwood forests in Indiana : Bolstering drought tolerance before an extreme drought
  • Sky Island region of Arizona: Providing pollinator habitat at different times of year
  • Montane meadows in California and Nevada: Expanding restoration goals to include offsetting snowpack declines driven by warming
  • Norton Creek watershed in Michigan: Broadening goals to reduce impacts of bigger floods on both fish and people
  • Northwoods forests in Minnesota: Managing for future conditions, not just past conditions


These projects were supported by the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund - which has awarded more than $14 million to 78 adaptation projects across the United States since 2011.


Publication Date: March 2018

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Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study

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