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Conservation in a Changing
We are in the midst of global climate change. The United States is experiencing higher than average annual temperatures, longer growing seasons, and shorter periods with frozen soils and lakes, as well as more extreme precipitation and related flooding. These rapidly changing and unpredictable conditions may unravel what has taken decades to conserve, degrading habitats so that they no longer support a diversity of plants and animals.
This risk necessitates a new approach to land conservation – an approach that targets conservation efforts to places most likely to be resilient in the face of the changing climate. Addressing that challenge, the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative is working with land trusts and public agencies from Maine to West Virginia to integrate climate change considerations into conservation priorities and to identify and protect resilient landscapes.
A New Approach –
Identifying Resilient Places
The land conservation community can play a defining role in protecting places where natural communities can thrive despite a warming planet. It has been a challenge, however, to translate the response to climate change into on-the-ground action. A new body of science has the potential to help land trusts make sense of the climate change puzzle.
This new science can help decision-makers ensure that the places we are conserving today will support a diversity of plants and animals tomorrow, given the pace and complexity of climate change. This approach, authored by scientists at The Nature Conservancy (link to TNC report) and based on more than a decade of research, has found that sustaining species diversity across the landscape is a function of two key elements: the number of geology types below ground and the complexity of associated landforms above ground. The more complex the site, the more species will be able to take advantage of the micro-climates available among the slopes, cliffs, valleys, ravines, caves and lowlands of a complex landscape. The local connectivity – or absence of roads, buildings and other infrastructure - is also important since species need to be able to access the complex features. Together landform complexity and local connectivity are used to identify the most resilient examples of each geology type. At the heart of this science is that while we cannot predict exactly how species and habitats will respond to climate change, we can identify places that provide the greatest climatic options for the greatest number of species.
OSI Capital Grants and Outreach Program
Using this new science, with a $6 million lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, OSI has launched the Resilient Landscapes Initiative to engage land trusts and public agencies across the eastern United States to respond to climate change. The Initiative seeks to increase conservation of lands that can facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change, facilitate access to and use of TNC resiliency science, and enhance land trust capacity focused on critical climate priorities. OSI will achieve its goals through selected capital grants and a targeted outreach and education program.
Through the Resilient Landscape Initiative, OSI will provide $5.5 million in capital grants within four targeted areas.
Using TNC’s data, OSI selected Resilient Landscapes that are all strongly positioned to facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change. Click on the highlighted region to download a pdf: Potomac Headwaters in West Virginia and Virginia, Highlands and Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey and Pennyslvania, Middle Connecticut River in Vermont and Massachusetts, and Southern New Hampshire and Maine Forests (links go to a PDF fact sheet for each focus area, check your computers downloads folder).
To select these Landscapes, from Maine to West Virginia, OSI used a two-step screening process – a science filter and a feasibility filter. In the science-based phase of work, OSI used TNC’s data to determine ‘best bets’ for permanent conservation in the face of climate change. Guided by an expert group of advisors – including ecologists from leading academic institutions, NatureServe, the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the Wildlife Conservation Society, OSI chose a subset of sites for further consideration.
OSI then screened these science-based sites to identify places where there was capacity to complete transactions, manageable threat and potentially matching public and private funding. We surveyed land trusts and agencies, funding sources, and large-scale threats to determine where capital investments have the potential to have significant impact. For more information on how these areas were chosen, please click here to view the selection paper.
OSI will award matching grants to projects within the resilient landscapes that permanently protect habitat through the acquisition of land or easements. OSI staff and the Fund’s Advisory Committee will review applications, solicited through a competitive process, against the resiliency data and other ecological and transactional criteria and then make recommendations to OSI’s board.
There are no additional deadlines in 2013. OSI will release a Request for Proposals in January 2014.
To be notified and learn more about the grant fund, please click here.
Outreach and Education
OSI will further enhance the capacity of land trusts and public agencies to respond to climate change through focused outreach and education efforts. We will make the resiliency science and data accessible to land trusts and public agencies and help groups integrate resiliency science into their conservation plans. OSI will provide targeted support to selected land trusts with an emphasis on groups working in the four Resilient Landscapes. Outreach and Education Grants will be made by invitation only. Grant amounts will be between $7,500 and $25,000.
Types of assistance we will provide to land trusts and agencies include:
Technical support on the use and application of TNC’s resiliency data;
- Small grants for integrating the data into conservation plans and development of communication materials about protection of resilient landscapes;
- Operational support for board and staff education; and,
- Support to provide outreach and assistance to partner land trusts and state agencies.
Capital Grant Fund
Outreach and Education