More generally, some have categorized climate change adaptation strategies into three areas, including resistance, resilience, and facilitated transformation (Hansen et al. 2003, Millar et al. 2007, Chambers et al., 2014). Where vulnerability assessments indicate low vulnerability over upcoming decades, management can concentrate on resistance-based strategies; aiming to prevent ecosystem degradation. Where moderate to high vulnerability is indicated, strategies focused on restoring resilience are the priority. Where vulnerability is indicated as being very high over upcoming decades, options for facilitated transformation may need to be identified.
Resistance strategies – Areas that may face low exposure to stress from climate change and have characteristics conferring inherent adaptive capacity, including large contiguous area, high biophysical variability, ecological intactness, and connectivity. High biophysical variability might occur in lands with high topographic and microclimate diversity and in waters with highly variable temperature regimes. Traditional strategies of preventive land and water protection apply well to these areas. An emphasis on ecological monitoring is appropriate in these to help detect anticipated change among sensitive species and ecological processes, with insights applicable to understanding change occurring elsewhere.
Resilience strategies—In areas of moderate climate change exposure, high biophysical variability may confer initial advantages because species are more likely to have both space and time to move to nearby locations retaining suitable habitat conditions as climate changes. However, past and current uses of land and water may have resulted in moderate levels of habitat degradation to many component ecosystems and species, both of which need to be managed to increase connectivity and potential for range shifts. Strategies in these areas can emphasize the restoration of composition, structure, dynamic processes, and connectivity that would occur during the planning cycle (e.g., the upcoming decades) had there not been previous intensive land uses. Preventive measures, such as removal of invasive species, likely remain feasible as strategies in these circumstances. Effects of altered disturbance regime may also be feasibly addressed but should anticipate climate-induced effects of the upcoming decades. Within existing contiguous blocks, conservation design might emphasize maintenance or enhancement of biophysical variability, and especially in arid regions, options to maximize drought refugia should be explored (Klein et al., 2009).
Strategies for assisted transformation— In places facing high climate change exposure; they may have low biophysical variability and, due to severe degradation, may require the most intensive management interventions focused on component ecosystems and species (Kates et al., 2012). Abating key non-climate stressors (e.g., altered ecological processes) will tend to be the more costly from the cumulative effects of multiple stressors and species extirpations. Maximizing linkages among remaining areas and enhancing permeability of the surrounding matrix would maximize opportunity for species movement and minimize disruption to key ecological processes (Rudnick et al., 2012), even though this comes at increased risk of facilitating expansion of invasive species (Dukes and Mooney, 1999). These are areas where failure to conserve target elements is most likely and the need for “managed translocation” is most likely (McLachlan et al., 2007; Butt et al. 2020). One can anticipate that transformations to novel ecosystems will be concentrated in these areas, so strategies may center on maintenance of key ecosystem functions and services (Jackson and Hobbs, 2009).
Evaluating and selecting adaptation strategies
Choosing among adaptation strategies will depend on a range of factors, depending on the installation’s particular needs, interests, and resources. Defining explicit criteria for use in evaluation and comparison of alternatives in terms of important values or benefits. Stein et al. (2019) suggest one approach for evaluating among possible adaptation strategies is to develop assessment criteria in the following general categories, including effectiveness in meeting INRMP goals, effectiveness in sustaining mission requirements, and feasibility. Evaluation questions should include: how well do the different strategies enable the installation to achieve its natural resource management goals? How will they perform in sustaining core mission requirements for the installation? And how practicable or realistic will it be to implement the various strategies or actions?
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Patrick Comer, Ph.D., Chief Ecologist
Climate change adaptation
8.4. Climate change adaptation
Resistance vs. resilience vs. transformation strategies