Constance I. Millar
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Adapting to Climate Change in Great Basin Mountain Ecosystems
Constance I. Millar, USDA Forest Service, Sierra Nevada Research Center, Albany, CA
Incorporating climate change, either natural variability or human-driven, into resource management forces a rethinking of basic principles and guidelines. I present a conceptual framework for adaptation strategies, and illustrate this with examples relevant to Great Basin ecosystems. This framework recognizes that because conditions and capacities vary across regions, priorities and solutions will differ. A toolbox approach is most useful, where high-order management decisions range from maintaining resistance to change (establishing refugia, habitat reclamation); promoting resilience (reducing stressors and improving health), assisting systems to move to new states (using assisted migration, relaxed germplasm transfer rules, anticipating extreme events); and realigning systems far out of natural variability (employing models tuned to the future rather than historic range of variability). Evaluating options and setting priorities will be increasingly important under uncertain future climates. At an overall level, decision-makers have three options for engaging climate-management, each defensible under different contexts. They can deliberately delay action, react after disturbance or extreme events, or act proactively in advance. Tiered methods such as no-regrets, low regrets, win-win; employing low- to high-technology approaches judiciously; and formal triage approaches are employed. Evaluating vulnerability is an essential first step. We can best learn the range of needs and tools for adaptation by engaging case-studies and sharing concrete ideas offered by field managers. The USFS Westwide Climate Initiative conducts case studies in the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain Region, and Pacific Southwest. I offer a sample of lessons learned from efforts that apply to Great Basin mountain ecosystems.