As working lands continue to respond to the pressures of a changing climate, individuals and organizations tasked with managing these systems will benefit from reexamining their priorities, objectives, and tactics. Some land managers may ultimately decide not to make any near-term changes in priorities or tactics, even after considering climate pressures on the lands they manage. Others may choose to accommodate change even as they attempt to ensure continued value from the lands in question. In other words, as forests, rangelands, and other systems adapt naturally, organizations need to decide if they intend to play a role in adaptation through land management and how to play that role most effectively. This is easier said than done, of course, as land managers struggle to keep up with “traditional” challenges, not to mention the daunting complexities of climate change (Swanston et al, 2016).
Agricultural producers, foresters, and ranchers have many tools available to begin addressing climate change; however, a new perspective is needed to expand management considerations to new issues, spatial scales, timing, and prioritization of efforts. The following principles can serve as a starting point for this perspective (Janowiak et al. 2016):
- Prioritization and triage: Prioritize actions for adaptation on resources that are vulnerable and the likelihood that actions to reduce vulnerability will be effective.
- Flexible and adaptive management: Maintain a decision-making framework that is flexible and incorporates new knowledge and experience over time, in this case with impacts from climate variability and change.
- “No regrets” decisions: Look for actions that result in a wide variety of benefits under multiple scenarios and have little or no risk.
- Precautionary actions: Where vulnerability is high, taking precautionary actions to reduce risk in the near term is extremely important.
- Support mitigation: Many adaptation actions are complementary with actions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Practices that help adapt farms to changing conditions may also reduce emissions or sequester carbon.
The USDA Climate Hubs are working together with numerous organizations to address the major challenges that land managers face when considering how to integrate climate change into their planning and management activities. Tools and resources compiled on this website are not meant to be prescriptive, but instead to support pathways for individuals to devise management responses suitable to their specific goals and objectives on the landscape. The Hubs will continually incorporate new information, ideas, and lessons learned to shape the components of this emerging effort.
Swanston, Christopher W.; Janowiak, Maria K.; Brandt, Leslie A.; Butler, Patricia R.; Handler, Stephen D.; Shannon, P. Danielle; Derby Lewis, Abigail; Hall, Kimberly; Fahey, Robert T.; Scott, Lydia; Kerber, Angela; Miesbauer, Jason W.; Darling, Lindsay. 2016. Forest Adaptation Resources: climate change tools and approaches for land managers, 2nd ed. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-GTR-87-2. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 161 p. http://dx.doi.org/10.2737/NRS-GTR-87-2
Janowiak, M. K, Dostie, Daniel N., Wilson, Michael A., Kucera, Michael J., Skinner, R. Howard ., Hatfield, Jerry L., Hollinger, David, Swanston, Christopher W. . 2016. Adaptation Resources for Agriculture Responding to Climate Variability and Change in the Midwest and Northeast. U.S. Department of Agriculture Washington, DC Technical Bulletin 1944 October 2016 Published in cooperation with the USDA: Midwest, Northeast, and Northern Forests Climate Hubs Agricultural Research Service Natural Resources Conservation Service Forest Service. https://www.climatehubs.oce.usda.gov/sites/default/files/adaptation_res…;