Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Effects of Climate Change on Wildlife and Habitat Concern Most Visitors to National Wildlife Refuges

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 ...
Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Visitors to national wildlife refuges are concerned about the impact of
climate change on America?s fish, wildlife and plants ? as well as the
habitat that supports them, a new survey just released by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service shows. The survey also shows strong support for
efforts to help native species adapt to changing climate conditions, such
as those now being implemented by the Service and its partners.

Seventy-one percent of the more than 10,000 visitors to national wildlife
refuges who took part in the survey ? conducted by the U.S. Geological
Survey in 2010 and 2011 ? believe that climate change poses a serious
threat to wildlife and wildlife habitat. About 74 percent of the same
respondents agree that addressing climate change effects on wildlife and
wildlife habitats will benefit future generations.

?The results of this survey underscore the Service?s responsibility ?
entrusted to us by the American people ? to ensure that we use the best
science to understand and anticipate the impacts of a changing climate in
order to safeguard fish, wildlife and plants and the important benefits
and services they provide,? said Service Director Dan Ashe. ?We recognize
the serious threats that climate change and other environmental stressors
pose to wildlife, and we?re working with our partners to address these
immense challenges using the latest science-driven approaches.?

Significant climate-related impacts on fish and wildlife have already been
observed by scientists across North America. These impacts include
dramatic shifts in the range of dozens of species and altered
precipitation patterns, resulting in increased flooding in some areas and
drought and water scarcity in others. In addition, flowers are blooming
earlier in the spring, while lakes are freezing later in the fall. These
shifts have disrupted the migration patterns of birds, as well as the food
chain on which they and many other species depend.

Ashe noted that the Service?s statutory authorities do not give the agency
the ability or responsibility to regulate the causative factors of climate
change. However, those authorities do require the Service to work with the
conservation community to anticipate and manage for the impacts of climate
change on fish and wildlife resources ? as the agency is required to
address any other factor affecting the long-term health and abundance of
these resources.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is working with its partners to address the
impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife and plants and the communities
that depend on them. These efforts include:
       As directed by Congress, leading development of a National Fish,
Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy designed to guide
government-wide wildlife adaptation partnerships over the next 50 to100
years.
       Developing an innovative carbon sequestration program in the Lower
Mississippi Valley in partnership with the Conservation Fund, American
Electric Power Company, and Entergy Inc., that is also restoring native
habitats to bolster populations of wildlife and migratory birds. The
project has added more than 40,000 acres of habitat to the National
Wildlife Refuge System and reforested more than 80,000 acres, sequestering
30 million metric tons of carbon over the project?s 70-year lifetime.
       Helping to create a network of locally-driven, solution-oriented
Landscape Conservation Cooperatives that will allow federal, state and
local partners to develop shared science capacity to inform conservation
actions that help priority species and habitats withstand the impacts of
climate change.

 ?As we look to the future, the Refuge System will need to prioritize land
restoration to effectively sequester carbon and protect wildlife,? said
Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth. ?That means targeted restoration to bring
altered landscapes into balance and to protect habitats that support
viable populations of wildlife. Most importantly, we have to work with
other government agencies, non-profit organizations and private landowners
to face the challenge of climate change.?

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the Service, is the
nation?s premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve
wildlife and wildlife habitat. National wildlife refuges protect thousands
of species; many also are popular recreation sites, noted for their
hunting and fishing, paddling and hiking, and wildlife observation.

Other survey results show that more than half of the refuge visitors
surveyed indicated a high level of both interest and personal involvement
in climate issues. More than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) agreed
that addressing climate change impacts could ?improve our quality of
life.? Nearly half of visitors surveyed (46 percent) expressed interest in
learning from refuges what they could do to help address the effects of
climate change on wildlife and habitat.

Economic considerations factored into visitors? assessments of climate
change impacts. More than two-thirds (71 percent) agreed that ?it is
important to consider the economic costs and benefits to local communities
when addressing climate change effects on fish, wildlife and habitats.?

USGS social scientist Natalie Sexton was the lead researcher on the
report. The USGS designed, conducted, analyzed and reported on the
peer-reviewed survey. The survey is available here.

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