Conservation in a Changing Climate
We are in the midst of global climate change. As the planet gradually warms, we are experiencing higher than average annual temperatures, longer growing seasons, and shorter periods with frozen soils and lakes. We are seeing more extreme weather patterns, such as heavy precipitation, drought and flooding. These rapidly changing and unpredictable conditions threaten to unravel what has taken decades to conserve, degrading wildlife habitat so it no longer supports a healthy diversity of plants and animals.
We must therefore conserve land even more strategically, focusing our efforts on the places most likely to endure over the long term, even as the climate changes. Recognizing that challenge, the Open Space Institute has launched the Resilient Landscapes Initiative to help land trusts and public agencies integrate climate science into their conservation priorities and to identify and protect the places where wildlife can thrive in an unpredictable world.
A New Approach –
Identifying Resilient Places
It is no longer sufficient to protect the places where plants and animals live today, because those places are changing. Rivers and streams, for example, may be warmer now than they were a decade ago, disrupting the reproductive cycles of fish dependent on cold, clean waters. The habitat ranges of other wildlife—birds, reptiles and mammals alike—are also shifting, as they too move northward and to higher ground to escape warmer temperatures.
New research, however, can help us identify the places to protect today that will likely support a variety of plants and animals tomorrow. This approach, studied for more than a decade by scientists at The Nature Conservancy (TNC report), has found that to protect diversity we must focus on three elements: the complexity of landforms, the connectivity of natural systems and a variety of geology types. In other words, we must preserve lands that are diverse both above and below ground and connected to other protected lands. Think unfragmented, natural areas with a variety of land formations such as slopes, cliffs, valleys and ravines, and different soil types. Together, these features combine to form individual micro-climates, each one a place where different forms of life can thrive.
OSI Resilient Landscape Initiative
Generously supported by $12 million in grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, OSI has launched the Resilient Landscapes Initiative to help land trusts and public agencies across the eastern United States respond to climate change. The Initiative seeks to increase the conservation of resilient landscapes and focus land trusts on critical climate priorities. OSI achieves its goals through selected capital grants and a targeted outreach and education program.
OSI awards matching grants to projects within selected Resilient
Landscapes that permanently protect habitat through the acquisition of land or
conservation easements. Since 2013 OSI has awarded capital grants within four
targeted areas in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states—each selected because
of their ability to facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change. Click on
the individual region to download a fact sheet:
Potomac Headwaters in
West Virginia and Virginia,
Highlands and Kittatinny
Ridge in New Jersey and Pennyslvania,
Middle Connecticut River
in Vermont and Massachusetts, and
Southern New Hampshire
and Maine Forests
Starting in late 2014, OSI has also made grants in important focus
areas in the Southeast: the Southern Cumberlands in Alabama, Georgia
and Tennessee; the Southern Blue Ridge in North Carolina, South Carolina and
Tennessee; and the Greater Pee Dee River in South Carolina and North Carolina.
Completed project grant list
OSI also helps land trusts and public agencies respond to climate change through selected Catalyst Grants and guidance documents. Catalyst grants provide organizations with the opportunity to build the knowledge base of key audiences and advance the practical application of climate science.
Preference is given to projects that: incorporate climate science into conservation plans within a land trust, a consortium of organizations, or a region; inform funding priorities of public and private funders; or advance applied research on new ways to integrate resilience science into land protection. OSI is also developing guidance documents to provide land trusts, towns and others involved in land conservation with the essential tools they need to understand and use climate science and data.
Read more about the Catalyst Grants.
Capital Grant Fund
Outreach and Catalyst Grants
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