Massachusetts: Climate change means conservation no longer is based on current species needs?

“The old model is – let’s protect a certain species or natural
community; let’s protect this habitat for box turtle or for maple
forest,” said Andy Finton, director of conservation science at The
Nature Conservancy. “We’ve got to be more flexible in our thinking,
because we can’t necessarily nail down all the species . . . In a way,
we’re protecting the stage, while the actors may change over time.”
More immediately, it means restoring bogs that could help prevent
flooding, or serve as a fallback position for wildlife if sea levels
rise – and tearing down dams to give fish access to cooler waters.
Both such efforts are underway. This shift in approach comes as
President-elect Obama recently announced his environmental team,
calling global warming an urgent issue.

Locally, a range of
environmentalists and state officials are trying to anticipate the
effects of climate change: From whether the spruce and fir trees atop
Mount Greylock will turn into northern hardwood forests, to the fate
of the region’s vernal pools, home to salamanders. The Nature
Conservancy, an environmental organization, recently completed the
purchase of a freshwater marsh and a tidal marsh around the Kennebec
Estuary in Maine. If sea levels rise, the freshwater marsh could
transform into a tidal marsh, and the tidal marsh into mudflats. “It’s
pretty clear that what we’ve traditionally thought of as natural
communities in Massachusetts, because of these warming temperatures,
are probably going to change,” said Mary Griffin, commissioner of the
state department of fish and game. “As a department, we’re thinking
there are a number of actions we can take today in everything we do .
. . we will use the climate change science as a factor in a lot of the
things we do day to day,” from land acquisition to habitat management.
Next year, the state plans to factor in climate change in making land
acquisitions. Last month, environmental leaders from across the state
came together at a first of its kind conference to discuss how to cope
with the predicted effects on flora and fauna. A year ago, the New
England Wild Flower Society called for a “new paradigm,” in which
“plant community concepts will likely need revision.” The society, for
example, will continue “banking” seeds from native plants, but with
the knowledge that those seeds may not be natives of Massachusetts in
50 or 100 years.

Posted via email from Deane’s posterous

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