Flying Fish

Tackling Climate with Fish and Wildlife Service
by Nicole Carlozo -- September 3rd, 2013

What’s a girl to do when she is tasked with integrating climate change into state restoration practices? Seems like a pretty tall order, if you ask me.

Maryland has recently integrated climate change into its conservation and land acquisition decisions. But what about restoration? While “wetland restoration” and “buffer planting” are commonly used as adaptation strategies, do we truly understand how these practices will be impacted by climate change over the next century and beyond?

Over the next year, I will be investigating climate impacts to natural filter restoration practices and the ecosystem services that they provide. How will climate change impact a wetland’s ability to remove nitrogen from groundwater, or a buffer’s ability to trap phosphorus and sediment?

I took my first step towards understanding these questions when I attended a 3-day training at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center (NCTC). Twenty professionals from the state, federal, NGO, and private sectors came together in Shepherdstown, W.Va. last week to participate in a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment course.

Although my project was discussed during the training, I did not leave NCTC with everything wrapped up in a neat little bow. I did, however, gain a few insights:

1) First and foremost, I’m not the only one feeling lost, confused, and overwhelmed with this “climate” problem. As I sat surrounded by professionals who have long worked in the environmental field, I began to understand that I’m not alone. We’re all grappling with the climate issue. In fact, our first steps towards addressing these questions are a necessary part of the learning process, as well as the adaptive management approach.

2) Sensitivity. Exposure. Adaptive Capacity.  All assessments revolve around these three indices. How you measure these components, however, is up to you.

3) Every assessment is unique in that your goals, objectives, and resources will drive methodology. If you’re looking for a cookie-cutter approach, you may find yourself disappointed.

4) Resources are available at a number of climate-related web sites, including NatureServe and CAKE. If an assessment has already been done in your area or for a similar species/habitat/ecosystem, then use it. Someone else’s work may act as a valuable starting place.

Perhaps all of my questions weren’t answered, but at least I’ll return to work this week with a place to start – a baseline and approach. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t give up my NCTC experience:

Polar Bear Welcome

Upon entering the NCTC Entry Building, I was greeted by this magnificent beast. A great spokes-animal for climate change.

Aldo Leopold and Me

I was placed in the Aldo Leopold Lodge for my 3-night stay.

Some Light Reading

The NCTC staff left me some light reading.

NCTC Facilities

I spent my first afternoon exploring the campus. Here you can see the entry room in the Commons (or dining) building.

Nature All Around

Some surprise guests greeted me.

Knowing Your Neighbor

Three different trainings were being offered. And so I ascended to the dining room to mingle with state and federal employees, as well as NGO representatives and consultants.

A Journey Across Campus

With my campus map in hand, I began my explorations.

Words of Wisdom

A few words of wisdom. Similar tidbits were found all around campus.

Forests

A forest view - similar views were common along the campus-wide trail system.

Frolicking Friends

I came upon 4 deer on my journey. Luckily, no deer ticks!

Man and Nature

People were scarce on my afternoon walks. But not to worry - 9 hours each day were devoted to classroom discussions and group activities!

Standing Strong

I slowly made my way to the building where I'd spend the next 3 days. Surprisingly, I found the buildings just as beautiful as what surrounded them.

To Class We Go

After 3 days of instruction, I believe I'm on the right track. But in truth, we barely scratched the surface of all the endless possibilities when conducting a vulnerability assessment. Each assessment is truly its own entity.

A Case Study

My group spent our time discussing the impact of climate change on natural filters and their ability to filter water.

A Start

Some notes from our 3 days of discussion about natural filters and climate change.

2 Comments

  1. Dave Burton
    Sep 4, 2013

    The reason the climate change issue is confusing is that it’s supposed to be confusing: it’s mostly smoke and mirrors. There is no real climate problem. The best evidence indicates that the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gases are modest and mostly beneficial.

    Contrary to climate alarmists’ predictions, there’s been no actual global warming since the Clinton Administration, there’s been no measurable increase in “extreme weather,” and the rate of sea-level rise hasn’t increased in over 80 years.

    There is, however, an enormous “climate change” constituency. NatureServe and CAKE are part of that industry. In the USA, the federal government has spent spent about $70 billion (“billion” with a “B”) on “climate change activities” during fiscal years 2008-2012, all of it money which could have been spent addressing real human and environmental problems.

    Among scientists whose paychecks depend on climate change worries, the great majority are True Believers in the Climate Emergency. That should come as no surprise. After all, most acupuncturists believe in acupuncture, too.

    Most scientists in the insulated cocoon of academia believe in the Climate Emergency, too.

    But the reset of the scientific community is deeply divided. Polls indicate that professional broadcast meteorologists mostly think the climate scare is overblown, and many think it is a complete “scam.” Over 31,000 American scientists (and engineers in relevant disciplines) have signed a petition stating that:

    “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

    • Nicole Carlozo
      Sep 5, 2013

      Hi Dave,

      Thank you for your comment. From a state perspective, there are a few reasons we are paying attention to climate.

      1) Almost 70% of Maryland residents live in the coastal zone. We are working hard to prepare coastal communities for storm surge, coastal flooding, shoreline erosion, and other coastal hazard events. There is general consensus that these events will increase in frequency and intensity. And even if they don’t, we will still benefit from reducing our vulnerability to these hazards.

      2) We are tasked with managing the state’s natural resources, which are impacted by climate as well as by human activities. Maryland is already observing warmer winters and summers, wetter autumns and springs, and drier summers. Historic tide-gauge records also show that sea level in Maryland is rising (and has increased by ~ 1 foot in the last 100 years). The question is – will these already-observed changes continue in the future and at what rate? How will they impact communities, rare/endangered species, wildlife, and ecosystem processes? We need to be ready to address impacts when they occur.

      3) There is a lot of uncertainty. Despite uncertainty, we want to prepare as much as possible to address threats to our coastal communities and ecosystems. This webinar does a great job at explaining the climate projections commonly used by the scientific community and the uncertainty involved: http://nctc.fws.gov/courses/climatechange/on-line-self-paced/ccva/downscaling-webinar.html

      It’s my understanding that the scientific evidence exists. Whether we do anything to address that evidence? Well, that’s a judgment call. Our actions will depend on our values and the level of risk with which we are comfortable.

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