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Saving wildlife in a warmer world

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Along with the US Geological Survey (USGS), states, and others, the FWS is now holding regional conferences on how to shape the cooperatives.

“We’re just at the very beginning stages of LCC development,” says Dan Ashe, deputy director of the FWS, in a phone interview. “We have to be able to be more predictive, to be able to look into the future to how climate change is affecting species like the grizzly bear, polar bear, or coho salmon.”

Gazing into the future is the key. Last month, Congress provided $25 million in fresh funding for the cooperatives, each of which will have a core staff of scientists to create models of probable regional climate impacts and provide scientific analysis for future wildlife management plans.

“The LCCs are integral to climate adaptation efforts,” according to an internal agency draft “function and form” document. Even so, they will not be “climate-centric,” but will “provide scientific support for conservation actions addressing a variety of broad-scale challenges, including water scarcity, species invasion, wildlife disease, as well as changing climate.

Using advanced computer models, LCC scientists will report how global warming could change regional ecosystems decades from now, allowing researchers to calculate whether a recovery plan in a species’ home range makes sense.

That, in turn, might make it possible to determine if a wildlife corridor, a way for animals to migrate past highways and cities to cooler northern climes, is possible. Or whether more drastic measures – such as translocating a species (capturing and moving it) – are necessary.

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