© Joseph C. Filer and Jason W. Filer

Combating Climate Change

Preparing for Climate Change

Defenders of Wildlife is working with wildlife and natural resource managers to develop climate change strategies to incorporate into their conservation plans.

These strategies should be based on assessments of the specific threats that wildlife and ecosystems are expected to face—such as sea level rise, higher temperatures, more frequent storms and droughts—and should include monitoring to provide ongoing information about impacts on the ground. We are also working to help land managers account for climate change in their existing management plans, recognizing that climate change is one of many threats to wildlife and habitats, and may even worsen existing threats. Finally, we are advancing ecosystem-based adaptation approaches to climate change that simultaneously protect communities and restore habitats.

Assessing Vulnerability

Determining which species and resources are most affected by climate change helps us set goals, determine management priorities and design appropriate adaptation strategies. Vulnerability assessments are an important component of climate adaptation planning, which focuses on finding ways to help wildlife and habitats respond to the effects of climate change—for example by identifying and protecting travel corridors to allow species to shift their ranges in response to the changing climate.

Our work in this area focuses on:

Wildlife Vulnerability to Climate Change: An introduction to how vulnerability is assessed and how it can help guide decision-making.

Vulnerability of Arctic Refuge Mammals: The Arctic region is experiencing some of the most rapid and dramatic climate change observed anywhere on the planet. Defenders assessed what these changes might mean for the mammals of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A 4-page summary report is also available.

Helping the National Wildlife Refuge System Prepare for Sea Level Rise: Many of our nation’s wildlife refuges are located in coastal areas, where they will be vulnerable to sea level rise and may lose habitat that is vital to recovering species. Defenders’ work has helped identify ways that refuges can cope with rising seas, and how they may need to alter their land acquisition priorities to make smart investments for the future.

Integrating Climate Change into Planning

Defenders of Wildlife is working with several states to help them integrate climate change into their existing plans and practices, particularly their state wildlife action plans.  This work has several facets: assessment of climate change vulnerability, putting these vulnerabilities in the context of other threats, and development of strategies to help states prepare for impacts. Some examples of this work include North Carolina, Florida, California and Maryland.

This work is applicable to federal agencies as well. For information on our work at the national level, see Shaping National Policy.

Protecting Communities and Nature

“Ecosystem-based adaptation” means helping communities restore native ecosystems to help cope with the impacts of severe weather and other climate effects, rather than building costly and potentially damaging infrastructure. Learn more about putting nature to use to protect people, read our paper, Harnessing Nature: The Ecosystem Approach to Climate Change Preparedness.

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Where We Work
Our Southwest team works to protect rare and threatened species like Mexican wolves, jaguars and ocelots.
Sonoran Pronghorn, Florin Chelaru
Fact Sheet
Known as "prairie ghosts" because they are so elusive, the Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) is the fastest land mammal in North America. Smaller and lighter in color than other pronghorn subspecies, it is uniquely adapted for survival in harsh arid conditions.
Wolverine, Kalon Baughan
Fact Sheet
Called "skunk bear" by the Blackfeet Indians, the wolverine is the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family. It has a broad head, small eyes and short rounded ears.