Climate Change + Land Conservation Strategies

In MassAudubon's Aug-Dec 2009 issue of its newsletter, Bob Wilber, Director of Land Protection, offers some advice on land protection strategies in his article "Reason for Hope as Our Climate Heats Up." 

For a century or more, land conservation efforts have focused on averting development and the associated loss of habitat and other features of open land . . . Climate change has now emerged as an additional and quite formidable threat, with the potential to transform the nature of not only Massachusetts but the entire planet. 

Wilber continues by describing the climate change effects we've already begun to see and states that, "Smart land conservation will play a critical role in reducing the potential scope of this change, which should give us all reason for hope."  

He describes the land protection strategies that are already emerging to help mitigate climate change impacts: 

  • Focus on intact forested landscapes, which will have the greatest resilience as climate change becomes more pronounced.  Also, forests play a critical role in absorbing carbon.
  • Make connections among existing blocks of protected land - particularly those that serve as wildlife corridors and those that are north/south oriented.
  • Continue to focus on rare species but include concentrating on "representativeness" - the "Noah's Ark" approach.
  • Maintain/enhance vegetative cover along riparian corridors, particularly cold water streams.
  • Maintain/enhance flood storage capacity and facilitate upgradient salt marsh migration as the sea level rises.

In Massachusetts, the Community Preservation Act, which has funded the protection of over 11,300 acres of open space to date, is an important local funding source for continued land protection efforts.  CPA communities can integrate climate change protection goals within all aspects of CPA, as I describe in my July article for CPA Update "Green CPA Projects."