Earth’s climate has always been changing, and living things have always needed to adapt to changing environments in order to survive and reproduce. For many species, this has meant movement. But for species on the move due to modern climate change, travel is not what it used to be.
First, there are the routes. By altering the landscape in the name of development, agriculture, and infrastructure, we humans have not made it easy for any kind of species migration, let alone those we cannot yet anticipate.
Then, there is the pace of climate change. Stanford climate scientists warn that the rate of change over the next century will likely be at least 10 times quicker than any climate shift in the past 65 million years. A 2011 study showed that species movement in response to climate change is happening two to three times faster than previously estimated, but is that fast enough? Can species keep pace? Last month’s news about the Brown Argus butterfly, the first known species to lose its ability to do something essential (eat and lay eggs on one of the two plants it has needed for survival) as it moves in response to climate change, raises doubts. So does Audubon’s recently released Birds and Climate Change Report, which projects that in merely 66 years, half of North American bird species will have lost 50% of their climatic range.
What do we know about current and projected climate-driven species movement? Can this information inform our work in ecological restoration, conservation planning and regenerative design so that we can facilitate species movement as the climate changes? What about the movement of invasive species in response to climate change?
To get a sense of the state of the latest science and challenges associated with it, we chat with two researchers who are studying climate-driven species movement. Dr. Josh Lawler is an ecologist at the University of Washington whose current work involves modeling the responses of animal species and populations to land-use and climate change. He is the author of several papers on species-driven movement and contributor to the U.S. National Climate Assessment.
Dr. Miguel B. Araújo holds the Chair in Integrative Biogeography at the Imperial College London, while also serving as a research scientist at Spain’s National Museum of Natural Sciences and a visiting professor at the University of Évora, Portugal and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Last year, his work studying the effects of climate change on regional and global biodiversity earned him the prestigious Ebbe Nielsen Prize, which recognizes innovative research excellence in integrating biodiversity science and informatics.
Though the study of climate-driven species movement is relatively new and constantly evolving, many people are applying the science to their work in restoration and conservation. Strategies range from ex situ conservation to the oft-debated approach of “assisted migration.” We share some examples.
One outstanding example, which we’re delighted to highlight in our Non-Profit Spotlight, is Wildlands Network, an organization that is hard at work creating continental-scale “wildways” to facilitate species movement throughout North America.
In her article Movin’ On Up, Jessica Norris reminds us that in our efforts to restore coastal ecosystems and protect communities in the face of sea level rise, we must allow for the upshore movement of non-human members of those communities. We share resources on this topic, as well as latest news at Biohabitats. Are you considering climate-driven species movement in your work? Tell us about your efforts by commenting on our Rhizome blog.
Leaf Litter Talks with the Experts
Josh Lawler is an associate professor and Denman Professor of Sustainable Resource Sciences in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. He received his BA from Bowdoin College and his MS and PhD in ecology from Utah State University. Dr. Lawler is an ecologist driven by applied conservation questions and their real-world applications, with climate change and land-use change at the root. In particular, he is interested in how climate change can drive shifts in plant and animal distributions, and the implications those shifts have for both natural systems and humans. He uses a combination of field and modeling techniques, and works with collaborators to design tools that conservation planners can use to assess the impacts that climate change and to plan for the future. Dr. Lawler has served as a lead author for the U.S. National Climate Assessment and as a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment Report. He has been awarded fellowships from the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, the David H. Smith Conservation Fellowship program, and the Kavli Frontiers of Science Program.
Species movement to adapt to changing environments is not new. Very generally speaking, how is the movement of species due to modern climate change different from what it has been historically?
Although current rates of climate change are very fast, and much change is predicted, if you look back through time, there have been periods in which we have had large changes in climate and large shifts in species distributions. We have the best records for plants (because we have fossil pollen from lake sediments), which we know have moved across large areas, seemingly relatively quickly—although it is now thought that some of this movement was really expansion from small isolated populations. We do not have good records of how fast animals have moved in the distant past, though, largely because we do not have very good fossil records for most animals. So we do not have a really good idea of how quickly things have moved in the past but we are finding that plants and animals are moving faster today than we thought they were. Studies that have come out in the last seven years have shown that species are moving more quickly than previous studies indicated.
For much of your research on this topic, you’ve applied a coarse-filter approach, rather than looking the species level, but can you share one or two examples of species that are already experiencing significant movement due to climate change, and those that are projected to move?
Some of the most well studied organisms, in terms of range shifts, tend to be birds, butterflies, and plants. In the U.S., early studies by Camille Parmesan showed that butterfly populations in southern California were going extinct and appeared to be moving north. That was some of the earliest work done to document [climate-driven] range shifts. Similar studies of butterflies in Britain have shown shifts to the north. Studies of birds in the U.S., Britain, and elsewhere have also demonstated shifts toward the poles. Alpine plants and plants in mountainous regions in Europe have been fairly well studied, and shifts to higher elevations have been well documented.
One species that has been fairly well-studied in the U.S. is the pika. It has been shown that a number of lower elevation populations of pikas have disappeared. One would expect this as it gets warmer because pikas require snowpack in the winter and cooler temperatures in the summer—conditions that are becoming less common at lower elevations in the western US as temperatures warm.
What have been some of the cascading effects of those shifts, or is it too early to see that?
We are bound to see new interactions among species and changes in ecosystems because of species movements. To date, there aren’t many studies that explicitly look at the cascading effects of climate-driven species movements on communities, but we do expect such effects. Researchers are finding that there are time lags in species responses to climate change [that is lags in the movement of some species in response to climate change]. Although many species are moving in ways that are consistent with changes in climate, others are not. One study that explored climate responses of two alpine plants in the U.S. found that neither showed a shift in their distributions. The researchers showed that although survival and recruitment was lower in southern populations, this was off-set by increased growth of individual plants in the south. Thus, the plants seemed to be able to compensate for lack of reproduction with higher growth rates. This, however is only a temporary solution to the problem of warming—as the older plants die, they will not be replaced . Other species may not need to move because they can adapt or because they can tolerate a much wider range of climatic conditions that we would expect.
You contributed to a literature review in the journal Frontiers in Ecology in which I read that some species movement can be indiosyncratic, even counterintuitive. Can you give an example?
A recent paper which looked at tree species in the western U.S. found that some species seemed to be moving downslope to lower elevations, which is not what one would expect. But once researchers looked further into the mechanisms, they found that at the upper extent of those species’ ranges, reduced snowpack was driving the upper range limit down. At the lower extent, the movement was explained by changes in moisture levels. So, even though the species didn’t show the typical shift to higher elevations, they did appear to be moving in response to climate change.
How would you describe the state of science related to understanding species movement because of climate change?
Although it has come a long way in the last ten years, we still have much to learn. The information comes from a number of different places. One is from observing and documenting range shifts–knowing where species have been in the past and finding out where they are today. Other information comes from paleo records–knowing how species moved in the distant past. A third source is the kind of modeling I do, projecting potential future shifts. This area has advanced relatively quickly, but there is still a lot of uncertainty associated with these types models. As we try to predict where, how much, and how fast species will move in the future, we rely on both climate models and biological models, both of which have associated uncertainties. Future work will reduce these uncertainties, but they will always be there—and that’s okay. We make decisions based on limited information all the time. Economic policies, health-care decisions, and even decisions to go to war are often made on far less certain information, projections, and model outputs.
How does the amount of information about climate-driven terrestrial species movement compare to that of aquatic species?
What do you see as the most critical knowledge gaps?
One of the key knowledge gaps is in understanding what controls species’ current distributions–why they are where they are now. If we knew more about how climate determines species’ current distributions, we would be able to do a better job projecting how changes in climate will affect them.
No matter how quickly the science advances, there will always be responses that we cannot anticipate. For example, we don’t know how interactions among species are going to change as the climate changes. As the climate warms, we may see two competing species that previously coexisted, unable to do so. One may out-compete the other for some reason. Those are the kinds of things we are not going to be able to predict for most species, even with better models and more ecological knowledge. Our basic knowledge about the ecology and natural history of species is perhaps one of the biggest things holding us back.
Climate-driven species movement seems like a Pandora’s Box of a research topic, given the degree of unpredictability and the multitude of factors. What do you find to be the greatest challenge in approaching this topic?
I think the greatest challenge is indeed the uncertainty in the modeling. I come at the modeling from the perspective of a conservation planner—because I’m interested in how prioritize areas to protect biodiversity. One of the greatest challenges I face is interpreting the model outputs—with all of their uncertainties—and recommending how they can be used for conservation planning and species and ecosystem management.
A year ago, you and colleagues published a paper in Ecology Letters in which you examined how the distributions of over 2900 vertebrate species (birds, mammals and amphibians) will shift because of climate change, and where those species’ movements will conflict with human land use. For the benefit of our readers, can you summarize your findings?
We modeled potential shifts in the distributions of 2900+ species, and we looked at how each species would have to move across the landscape in North and South America to track the changing climate. For every place within the current range of a species, we mapped a route that would take them to the nearest suitable climate in the future. Those routes had to follow the suitable climate, but also avoid areas that were heavily impacted by humans, like agricultural areas, and areas with major highways and development.
When we did that for all those species and overlaid those potential movement routes, we found that there were certain places where there will likely be a great deal species movement, either because the climate will force species to move or because the species will be funneled through particular areas by the way humans have used the landscape.
A number of these places—these highways of movement–popped out on the maps we created. In the U.S., one of the clearest routes was in the southeast, where there was a lot of projected movement up into the Southern Appalachians and along the Appalachians, presumably to allow species to reach cooler climates. We saw similar concentrations of movement in South America. In the Amazon, we saw lots of movement to the west and up into the Andes, following the river corridors defined by the Amazon and its tributaries. In southeastern Brazil, we saw lots of movements to the southeast that were were being channeled by development. In Argentina, there is a clear path of movement down through the Pampas and up into the Andes. In one analysis, we found movement up through the western U.S. along a corridor all the way from Mexico up into the Yukon. Those movement paths were largely defined by where there were mountain ranges and protected lands that weren’t as developed, as well as how the climate was directing movement.
Did any of your finding surprise you?
We were surprised at how clear some of these pathways were. We expected to see lots of general northward movements in the Northern Hemisphere and general southward movement in the Southern Hemisphere. We also expected to see movements toward higher elevations. But we did not expect to see these concentrations of movements in specific places.
In what ways do you see (or hope to see) your research being applied?
We have been working to integrate models (not necessarily from the paper in Ecology Letters, but similar models with similar datasets) into the planning process for selecting places to protect that would better help animals move in response to climate change. We’ve been working specifically with The Nature Conservancy to integrate climate-change considerations into a tool for prioritizing large land deals.
Where is this research headed? What’s next?
My lab has gone in three different directions since completing some of the larger-scale, Western Hemisphere work we’ve talked about here. One of those directions has been to work at a finer spatial scale. We have been working in the Pacific Northwest at a much finer resolution to do the same kind of species distribution modeling for birds, mammals and amphibians.
Another direction is that we have started using a different kind of model for individual species. We have done work on endangered species, such as the San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica), the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), and the Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapilla), the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis).
We have used very sophisticated population models that track individuals through space and time as they respond to climate change and other factors. We have used those models to look at how individual populations of these species in particular locations would respond to a changing climate. This kind of modeling takes a lot more data and a lot more work, and you can only do it for a handful of species for which you have a lot of information. So that is one direction in which we have gone: trying to build more sophisticated, arguably better models that should be able to better predict potential future changes.
The third direction we have taken is to look for alternatives to doing this kind of modeling to use in the conservation-planning process. There are managers and planners who are a bit wary of all of the uncertainty and want something not based on model projections. We have been looking at different approaches that involve identifying climate refugia– places that might be suitable in the future for lots of species, places nearby in the landscape species might go to, or places that will change less in a changing climate. You can identify these refugia using the types of models we’ve been using, but you can also identify them using topography. For example, you can look at where there are north-facing slopes (in the northern hemisphere) or higher elevations that are colder now than any place in the surrounding landscape, because they’re likely to still be colder than anything in the landscape in the future even if they are warmer than they are today. There are also approaches that use current climate maps to identify those places. So you can do that without using model projections.
There are other approaches that people have suggested for protecting species in a changing climate. For example, some have suggested that we protect a diversity of environments– assuming that a diversity of soil types and topographies will provide or a diversity of species in the future. That is an approach that has been pioneered by Mark Anderson at The Nature Conservancy.
We have also been working on connectivity modeling that is based on current climate gradients and not projected future climates. This modeling attempts to connect intact patches of land that are slightly warmer to ones that are slightly cooler in ways that will allow species to avoid going through areas that are heavily impacted by people and that avoid crossing steep climate gradients.
So these are some of the things that we’ve been doing that don’t involve model projections but are also for the purpose of planning to protect diversity in a changing climate.
So the concerns of planners and managers about the uncertainty of projection models drove this direction of your research. How did you come to know that they were leery of projection models?
Largely from working with them. For the finer scale modeling project we’re doing in the Pacific Northwest, we work with scientists and managers from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and The Nature Conservancy. Through that project, we were able to learn what people were thinking and worrying about [with respect to projection models]. I was also, personally grappling with what to do with all this uncertainty. The more working groups and task-forces I participated in that involved managers, and the more talks I gave to groups of people in local and regional management positions, the more I could see that people were concerned.
Species movement is not going to be restricted by regional and national borders. To what degree is there international cooperation regarding research of this topic?
There is plenty. One of the first international collaborations that made a big splash put together the work groups in Central America, South Africa, and Europe. They collaborated to write a paper that became one of the first attempts project climate-caused extinction rates. They used range shift projections to estimate how many species would actually run out of suitable climate habitat. There are also people, like Walter Jetz at Yale, whose work involved global modeling.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the best example of scientists coming together to summarize information that is out there—not necessarily to do the modeling, but to summarize modeling outputs.
Is there any type of central database where practitioners can find information related to climate-driven species movement?
There is no one-stop shopping, but there are places practitioners can go to get information. There is a data repository called Data Basin which has a lot of maps of range shifts and changes in vegetation that have been predicted for some places. In addition, my lab developed a tool called Climate Wizard. You can use it to explore how climate has changed or is going to change in any particular place on the globe.
Climate change will cause invasive species to move, too. Many of our readers are land planners and designers. Some may find themselves in a position where they are being asked to consider non-native species. How can they find out if species are likely to become invasive as the climate changes?
[Climate-driven movements of invasive species] are hard to model, because introduced species don’t necessarily behave the way they do in their native range. There is evidence that some invasives will likely fair better than native species as the climate changes.
Were invasive species factored into your study “Projected climate-driven faunal movement routes”?
We didn’t focus on invasive species. But you are right. If one factors in big drivers that might change habitat, such as changes in fire regimes, changes in hydrology, outbreaks of disease, etc., the picture might change quite a bit. There are people working on those particular climate-driven responses. These are things that could be incorporated in recent models to make them potentially more accurate and useful.
Let’s talk about the application of this type of research. The “Ecosystems, Biodiversity, and Ecosystem Services” chapter of the National Climate Assessment (for which you were a lead author), concludes with recommendations for adaptation planning. If you sat down to lunch at a table full of natural resource managers and policy makers, and you had only a couple of minute to say something to them about adaptation planning, what would you say?
First, I would suggest trying to develop a general understanding of what climate change might mean for the particular resource or area that is being managed. Is it projected to get hotter and wetter? Hotter and drier? What will that mean for the plants? The animals? The landscape? This could be fairly simple. It could mean understanding that there will likely be more fire, or that it’s likely to be dryer so there will be more droughts. Having an idea of the potential impact on and the vulnerability of, the things one is managing is the first step.
Then, I would suggest reconsider current management actions and management goals and objectives. It may not be possible to manage for species X anymore because of climate change. Or it may no longer make sense to manage water in the way it is currently managed.
After that, I would recommend identifying the potential management options. What will could be done differently now in the face of these potential impacts? That means coming up with strategies, which may involve some new management approaches, old techniques used in a different way, etc.
The next step would be to apply some of those strategies and monitor the system or species as the climate changes. Some of those strategies are going to be experiments, and the climate may or may not change as projected, so those strategies may need to be adjusted. Being very flexible in terms of management, and responding to the way these experiments turn out and the way the climate is changing will be critical.
One of the adaptive strategies listed among those in the National Climate Assessment is assisted migration. What is your opinion on assisted migration?
It is a tool that we should keep in our toolbox, but one we will have to use very carefully. There are going to be species that will need to be picked up and moved if we want to keep them from going extinct. In that case, we’re going to have to think the process through carefully and weigh the potential consequences of the new introduction or translocation against the consequence of losing the species. It will be hard to make those decisions.
The conclusion of your paper in Ecology Letters states that “human activities on the landscape have the potential to greatly facilitate or inhibit” climate-species movement. I’d think that Leaf Litter readers can play a key role in facilitating movement. What advice do you have for them?
Facilitating species movements is often thought of in terms of big projects like the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative or wildlife crossings over highways, but smaller efforts such as making landscapes more permeable by having more fence rows in agricultural fields, letting fields go fallow in certain patterns, or designing residential areas with more native vegetation that is resilient to climate change all have the potential to facilitate movements.
Miguel Bastos Araújo has authored over 150 publications in journals and books including National Geographic Magazine, Nature Reports on Climate Change, the New Scientist, the Scientific American, and the Scientist. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Ecography and he contributed to the 2007 4th (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) Assessment Report, for which the IPCC shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Araújo also contributed to a report on the effects of climate change on European protected areas for the Council of Europe, and an assessment for the Spanish and Portuguese governments on the effects of climate changes on terrestrial Iberian biodiversity.
Dr. Araújo holds the Chair in Integrative Biogeography at the Imperial College London, as well as a joint appointment at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. He also holds academic visiting appointments at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Évora. He has been principal researcher in more than 15 research projects, including five large European funded consortiums on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and one international FBBVA project to investigate climate change impacts on Latin America biodiversity. Dr. Araújo’s current research is driven by three unifying questions: 1) how did past climate changes affect the distribution of biodiversity? 2) how might current and future environmental changes affect biodiversity? 3) how can biodiversity be conserved given current and future challenges?
Dr. Araújo has received numerous prestigious awards, including a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit award, the International Biogeography Society’s MacArthur & Wilson Award, and the Ebbe Nielsen Prize. Currently, he continues to travel extensively, and remains an active collaborator of several research groups mainly in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, France, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, US, and UK.
I would like to ask you about a specific species you have recently studied: the Iberian lynx (lUCN listing: critically endangered). Your study shows that anticipated climate change will likely lead to this animal’s extinction within the next 50 years. Can you tell us about that study, your findings, and how (and if) those findings are being applied to conservation of the Iberian lynx?
The Lynx study we published in Nature Climate Change is the first that explicitly models the effects of climate change on a wild species considering, simultaneously, the effects of land use, prey availability and disease on both the prey and the predator.
We showed that when all these factors were accounted for in the models, the extinction probability of the lynx was much greater than anticipated by current conservation plans. Specifically, it was predicted that the species could go extinct by mid-century and current conservation plans involving ex-situ breeding and translocations in the south of Iberia would not be enough to maintain viable populations in the long term. On a positive note, we also showed that conservation efforts would be much more effective if the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula was considered for translocation of Lynx. This is because the suitability of the habitats is expected to increase there due to climate warming, while decreasing in the south where relict populations currently survive. I recently had a meeting with some of the managers dealing with the reintroduction plans for the Lynx to explain them the results in detail, and I believe they will be taken into account in the future reintroductions of this threatened species.
Josh Lawler says that many of the land managers and planners are “a bit wary of all of the uncertainty” associated with climate-driven species distribution projections and they want “something that is not just based on model projections.” You co-authored a paper that appeared in the journal Science earlier this year which presents a simpler alternative—using metrics at both the local and regional scale. Can you describe that alternative for our readers?
I understand that constraining decisions of today based on uncertain forecasts can cause anxiety among managers. But planning for the future involves managing the risk that forecasts are wrong. The critical question is whether the cost of inaction if the forecasts are correct is lesser than the costs of action if the forecasts are wrong. Ideally, managers should seek ‘no regrets strategies’ providing positive outcomes whatever the scenarios on the table.
Our paper does not solve the problem of uncertainty. We start with the premise that we won’t be able to model the effects of climate change on all species because we lack information about them. Alternatively, we propose making a cleverer use of climate change forecasts and link them more directly to different aspects driving changes in the distributions and abundances of species.
Your lab’s web site states that your lab “has contributed to change the species distributions modelling practices in use until early 2000, helping setting the standards for new studies at the interface between biodiversity and climate change.” Can you elaborate on this? How have you and your colleagues changed the way scientists project climate-driven species movement?
When we started working in the field it was already established that ecological niche models, relating the distributions of species to aspects o climate, could be used for making projections of altered species distributions under climate change. However, little was known about their strengths and limitations and it was believed that because different methodologies were conceptually similar it did not matter which ones to use. We showed, for the first time, that uncertainties from these models could be greater than the uncertainties from climate models. Furthermore, we demonstrated that if large ensembles of equally plausible models were fitted we could both measure the uncertainties associated with the models and reduce them. Our findings were instrumental to defining best practices for modeling species distributions and are now taken into account in most studies assessing climate change impacts on species distributions.
Can you share examples of how your research has been applied to conservation actions that have been taken on the ground?
Perhaps the clearest case of one study in my lab having a direct impact on applied conservation action was the Lynx paper referred to in your first question. However, other studies dealing with the impacts of climate change on protected areas are also being looked at outside academia. For example, following our studies on the topic the Council of Europe commissioned me a technical report on climate change and protected areas. Eventually, the recommendations in this report might be taken into account by European institutions or individual member states. But I am not particularly worried about the immediacy with which scientific findings are translated into policy. There usually is a lag between a scientific discovery and its use in technology or policy. If our findings are good and robust they will eventually be used.
Your studies have not been limited to terrestrial species. You co-authored “Modelling distribution in European stream macroinvertebrates under future climates,” which appeared last year in the journal Global Change Biology. Since the life cycle of many macroinvertebrates involves them getting up out of a stream and flying, common sense suggests that they might have an advantage when it comes to climate-driven movement. Did you find this to be the case?
I am more familiar with terrestrial systems but the models we develop can be applied to any system. I have students using ecological niche models in marine contexts also, and the study you mention was a collaboration with German researchers working with stream macro-invertebrates. Notice we did not model movement directly. Just how much they would need to move to track climate changes.
Last year, you were awarded the prestigious Ebbe Nielsen Prize, by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. I read that you planned to use the €30,000 prize towards developing an ‘Ecotron’ experimental facility to test predictions for how environmental change will affect the combination of species found in different locations and help inform conservation decisions. Have you begun this work? How can our readers learn more about it?
There is still not much to read because it is work in progress. Nevertheless we have now set our experimental system involving 192 artificial (mesocosm) ponds distributed across six locations in the Iberian Peninsula. Each location is characterized by a different climate. In each we will use novel genetic techniques to systematically sample the aquatic ecosystems, characterize food webs, and test predictions of how they will change when exposed to controlled climate change.
It looks as though you collaborate quite a bit with scientists in other parts of the world. Can you tell us about a recent collaboration that is most exciting to you?
Global change science is highly interdisciplinary and there is a degree of urgency in getting answers for the problems. Working in collaboration is, therefore, the most effective way to go. It is difficult to tell which of my recent collaborations is most exciting, as all of them are. But, perhaps I could single out the project with researchers from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. We experimentally measured thermal tolerances of a large number of lizards along the extremely sharp gradient of temperatures that exists in the country thanks to its latitudinal extent and elevation range. This study has revealed that tolerances to heat are highly conserved in the group, that is, they very similar among different species, whereas tolerances to cold vary depending on the environmental conditions present in the places where species live. This means that adaptation to cold is physiologically feasible in many circumstances but adaptation to warming is difficult when species are already exposed to high temperatures.
Climate change will cause invasive species to move, too. You contributed a chapter to the book Wildlife Conservation in a Changing Climate on Modeling Range Shifts for Invasive Vertebrates in Response to Climate Change. What can you tell us about this?
Humans have been the main driver of movement by intentionally or unintentionally moving species from one location to another. The process started with the expansion of agriculture and gained a global dimension with the European expansions to Asia, Africa, and the Americas in the 14th and 15th century. Climate change adds to this process of human-driven invasions because most species in the planet are warm-tolerant thus more easily established away from their native ranges if temperatures increase globally. This means that relatively species poor regions in colder parts of the globe will become suitable for colonization by many species living in warmer areas. Although this process of invasion may lead to local and regional increases in species richness it might also lead to range contractions or even extinctions of several cold-tolerant species. Globally, the consequence is a loss of diversity.
As practitioners, managers, and students of ecological restoration, conservation planning, and regenerative design, our readers can play a key role in facilitating species movement. What advice do you have for them about applying the latest science related to climate-driven species movement to their work?
Studies such as the ones developed in my lab identify areas that will important for species persistence under climate change. These can be ‘range retention’ areas where species are expected to locally persist despite climate change, or dispersal pathways required to reach new habitats as they are displaced with climate change. Not all areas predicted as climatically suitable for species will be suitable in practice, as they might overlap with areas of human development. Knowing where key areas are for future species conservation is a first step towards prioritizing them for restoration, conservation planning or regenerative design.
By Jennifer Dowdell and Amy Nelson
If you work to protect and regenerate ecological systems, design robust and resilient communities, and plan for the conservation of natural resources, chances are you already integrate adaptation to climate change into your work. Whether you are restoring oyster reefs that also help protect coastal communities from storm surges, developing integrated water strategies for increasingly arid sights, or planning for coastal habitat movement associated with sea level rise, you likely have rising tides and temperatures and decreasing water tables and snowpacks in mind. But what about climate-driven species movement? As the body of knowledge on this topic grows, are we practitioners allowing it to inform our work? With so many stacked goals already associated with our work, can we really add the facilitation of climate-driven species movement to the pile? If one of those goals is biodiversity (and honestly, when is it not?) we’d better.
Many already have. Planners, managers, and designers are beginning to apply knowledge about projected, climate-driven species movement to their work in ecological restoration, conservation planning, and regenerative design. As we learned from Wildlands Network and from our interview with researcher Josh Lawler, many conservation organizations and natural resources agencies are using climate and species movement prediction models to guide decisions about which land to acquire and conserve. For example, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s use of the Columbia Plateau Analysis (prepared by Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group) enabled them to identify and target a habitat concentration area for future translocation of the Sharp-tailed Grouse.
Others are applying a variety of adaptive strategies that promote the conservation and protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Here, we highlight some examples.
CONSERVING POPULATIONS W/HIGHER GENETIC DIVERSITY OR MORE FLEXIBLE BEHAVIORS
Understanding and enhancing species resilience to changing conditions is considered an important adaptation strategy. Through a closer examination of species’ genetic and behavioral responses to the pressures of climate change, scientists are gaining more insights to inform our understanding of species survival and flexibility. Species that can adjust in response to environmental degradation will be more resilient in the long term. The challenge is to understand the nuances of a species’ genetic traits and behaviors (termed “survival traits”) in order to know whether or not they are flexible enough to move or survive within changing systems. This information could then help scientists develop conservation plans to deal with climate change.
Research examining species genetics and behavioral traits for flexibility run the gamut, from studies of mayflies and other aquatic insects in the foothills of the Rockies, where scientists are realizing that some populations may be even more vulnerable than first thought; to the study of coral reefs in Mexico, where some coral species have shown the ability to create large fat reserves that help them withstand bleaching and other high stress events associated with warming waters. This is particularly important since corals serve as critical habitat for thousands of species in tropical waters.
In another example of studying genetic and behavioral flexibility two species of the African striped mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio and Rhabdomys dilectus, were studied to better understand their resilience in light of changing climate across Southern Africa, where warming is leading to increased aridity. Behaviors differ between the two species, ie., group-living versus solitary behavior. Adaptive social behaviors allow one species (R. pumilio) to reproduce in both solitary and communal breeding scenarios, thus allowing for greater resilience if the populations are stressed and community dynamics change. The study showed that although both species face the possibility of extinction under extreme conditions, they can survive if they use their potential for social flexibility. Furthermore, in one scenario, the species that lives in the western part of the study area displaces the eastern species because of its origins in a slightly drier areas (and its associated physiological adaptation to arid habitats). This could perhaps lead to an understanding of steps needed to promote the conservation of certain populations that show more adaptive and resilient behaviors, and how the absence of social flexibility may be a constraint for survival under increased pressures of climate change.
An understanding of the movement of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in response to climate change is informing the way Craig Bienz, Program Director at The Nature Conservancy’s Sycan Marsh Preserve in Oregon has approached habitat restoration. According to Benz, changes in mean annual water temperature of only 1–3°C may influence bull trout dispersal or displacement such that their range is reduced by as much as 40%. With annual temperatures expected to rise between 2.2°C and 4.8°C, and with the threat of extreme and prolonged droughts, the future looks grim for this already threatened species. “Increased atmospheric temperatures will exacerbate the effects of loss of riparian vegetation and ongoing stream-water withdrawals,” said Benz, “resulting in higher stream temperatures and further fragmenting and reducing bull trout habitat.” On top of all that, said Bienz, “higher temperatures may also reduce snowpack and will probably alter flow regimes and sediment loads, potentially burying gravel essential for spawning. “
Fortunately, Bienz and his colleagues have implemented several bull trout habitat restoration initiatives with climate change and ecosystem process in mind. “We are increasing connectivity within the watershed and stream network by removing barriers to dispersal, thereby allowing fish to move in response to changes in stream temperature,” said Bienz. By removing water-control structures, they are also restoring the historic hydrologic regime, which will, according to Bienz, allow the stream to expand, contract, and move through its floodplain, potentially buffering the impacts of projected changes in stream flow over the coming century. They have also increased riparian vegetation and restored hardwoods in riparian areas to provide microhabitats. The efforts are paying off. “We have seen an increase in salmonid habitat,” said Bienz. “Summer stream temperatures now decrease more than 3°C through reaches where there was previously an increase, and beaver (Castor canadensis) populations increasing over 80%. These changes should benefit bull trout regardless of the exact nature of climate change, and thus can be undertaken despite the uncertainty in the magnitude of temperature changes and projected changes in precipitation.”
REPLANTING WITH SPECIES OR ECOTYPES BETTER SUTED FOR FUTURE CLIMATES
Climate-driven species movement can come into play when selecting plants for ecological restoration projects. “I do think about it when developing planting plans where there is potential to prepare for a future shift in plant community,” said Biohabitats environmental scientist Bryon Salladin. For a recent stream restoration project, for example, Salladin proposed a concept that included planting bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in an area of Maryland’s Coastal Plain that is on the northernmost tip of the species’ current range. “Although bald cypress is native to warm, humid climates,” said Salladin, “its northern limit is actually caused by ice damage to seedlings. As the climate warms, that ice becomes less of a factor at that site.”
Biohabitats Landscape ecologist Kevin Grieser, who develops many planting plans for stream and wetland restoration projects in northeast Ohio and southwestern New York, takes a similar approach. “Based on climate change scenarios, the general shift in forest type in these areas is from Maple-Beech-Birch to Oak-Hickory,” said Grieser, “so that is often reflected in my plant lists.” Species movement in response to climate change also helps guide decisions about species to include or exclude from planting plans. For projects in southwestern New York, where the white spruce (Picea glauca) is at the southern end of its range, you typically will not find the species in any of Grieser’s plans. According to Grieser, many entities and individuals are looking to purchase plant material from regional nurseries to the south or in slightly warmer climates than the actual restoration location.
In the southern U.S., a program called PINEMAP, a collaboration 50 scientists, educators, and Extension professionals from 11 southeastern land grant universities and the USDA Forest Service, is working to develop and disseminates knowledge that enables southern U.S. forest landowners to adapt forest management approaches and plant improved varieties of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), to increase forest resilience and sustainability under variable climates. The program integrates research, extension, and education.
PRESERVING CLIMATE STRONGHOLDS
Another strategy being considered by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is the conservation and preservation of natural climate strongholds. These are locations that have been identified as having a certain set of characteristics that allow them to withstand the impacts of climate change and ensure the survival of a diverse array of species – providing diverse environmental conditions and corridors that promote local movement and linkages to alternative habitats. Climate strongholds, considered highly resilient and biologically diverse, also provide important sources of clean drinking water, fertile soils, other important ecosystem services.
TNC recently identified a swath of land in the southeastern US that has the capacity to provide important climate strongholds as climate change continues to exert pressure on sensitive habitats and populations. The areas considered the most resilient show the most complexity in topography, geological characteristics, and ranges in elevation. These diverse locations, found from Florida to Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia, also lack large networks of roads, urban areas, and other barriers that act as natural migration of plants and animals (what they termed “permeability of landscapes”).
Many of the most resilient landscapes identified in the TNC study are found in the Appalachian ranges and other spots that provide a variety of conditions, from hot slopes, to cool coves, wet basins and dry flats. The high elevation forests of the Southern Blue Ridges had particularly impressive density of climate strongholds.
It was noted that the “position and context of the Cumberland and Blue Ridge Mountains, the large river systems linking the Piedmont to the coast, and the host of connections that run through the state of Alabama give them significance with respect to maintaining connections and movements that we previously did not recognize.” There is a plan for the Nature Conservancy to review the data over the next two years to better understand linkages that can create a “connected network of resilient areas” and the TNC is now working on a similar study to identify strongholds in the Pacific NW, results are expected by the end of the year.
Scientists note that now that these locations of ecological resilience and diversity have been identified there should be planning strategies and policies developed to protect and preserve these areas, protecting them from future development, pollution, and other pressures. The results are starting to be used by land managers (nonprofits and government agencies alike) as a blueprint for targeting land and water management for the greatest conservation results.
Ex-situ strategies involve conservation of species outside of their native habitats, usually in a zoological park, preserve or botanical garden. This often includes seed storage, captive breeding, or DNA storage. The main purpose of these collections are the “rescue and preservation of threatened genetic material and the breeding of species for potential reintroduction in their native habitats” in order to ensure the survival of a species that is on the brink of extinction. Living organisms in ex-situ collections are often managed according to strict scientific and horticultural standards to maximize their value for conservation. The main purpose of ex-situ practices are to maintain biological and genetic diversity in light of many pressures.
Zoos and botanic gardens are the most well-known examples of this type of conservation strategy, but there are also facilities like the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, where research and breeding is undertaken to maintain genetic diversity and provide reserves for highly endangered species from across the globe in large-scale, controlled environments. At places like SCBI, larger numbers of a given population can be studied in order to better understand and promote long-term sustainability of threatened species.
The SCBI is also an active member of a consortium of large research institutions and breeding centers that jointly maintain and manage more than 25,000 acres of land. Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2) were formed for the express purpose of protecting endangered wildlife species, providing large areas of space and similar habitat conditions for species that are not surviving in their native habitats in the wild, and providing scientists an opportunity to study these sensitive species in unprecedented ways within a controlled and safe environment. The centers range from the Smithsonian’s location in Front Royal, VA to locations in Texas, California, Florida and Ohio. Their efforts support species recovery and potential reintroduction into the wild of genetically sustainable populations.
According to David Wildt, PhD, a senior scientist who heads the SCBI’s Center for Species Survival, ex-situ populations are developed for a number of reasons:
- As an insurance population to retain genetic diversity
- To generate knowledge and a deeper understanding of reproductive traits in a controlled and semi-natural environment (in ways that could never be done in the wild)
- To use animals to inspire and educate the general population about the importance of conservation efforts
- To support species for future reintroduction into the wild
One of the most notable stories of species recovery that the SCBI played a role in is the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret in the Western U.S. At one time it was thought that the black footed ferret was extinct. It was rediscovered, only to find that there were only 18 animals left. SCBI studied the species and their reproductive traits, reintroducing a population that has since grown to over 300 animals living in the wild again.
While climate change is not the primary driver for the majority of the conservation efforts being undertaken at the SCBI there is one fairly high profile example at the intersection of climate change research and reproductive research. For many years Dave Wildt has led reproductive studies of giant pandas in collaboration with Chinese scientists, in order to try to resolve ex-situ breeding challenges and promote long-term sustainability of panda populations. Chinese scientists have been working with Wildt to better understand and promote reproductive success of the Giant Panda in order to conserve this flagship species, which is a national icon and a keystone species in China. A parallel study led by Wildt’s colleague Melissa Songer has more recently focused on integrating spatial habitat information with climate models in China. The goals of Songer’s study are to better understand the effects of climate change on available panda habitat, predict how habitat will shift, and better understand what land will need to be preserved in order to promote habitat availability for shifting populations. The model shows that climate change could reduce available panda habitat by 60% within the next 70 years. Most suitable habitat will not occur near current preserves and thus the creation of new protected areas will be tantamount to the long-term viability of panda populations in the wild.
The Chinese, in partnership with their U.S. counterparts, have successfully worked to increase the panda population, rebounding from approximately 120 pandas in captivity in the 1990s to over 375 pandas in captivity in 2014. A key aim is to make sure the population is demographically and genetically secure before reintroducing them in the wild. This climate study will provide guidance for where reintroduction will need to occur.
One of the more controversial strategies considered for the protection and preservation of vulnerable species is the relocation of vulnerable species to new locations, before their historical ranges become completely inhospitable due to effects of climate change. The aim is to preserve ecosystems, communities or individual species that are experiencing rapid decline (and ultimately risk extinction) by helping them move to locations where they may have a chance at survival. This is particularly important for species where their rate of migration cannot keep pace with modern climate change (trees and plants), or where corridors associated with potential migration are blocked by human barriers in the form of large scale development or urbanization, highways, cities, etc.
This practice, which goes by a variety of names, including assisted migration, assisted colonization, managed relocation, or rewilding, is applied with varying degrees of human intervention. It can occur as an assisted population migration (where seed sources are relocated within current ranges), an assisted range expansion (moved from current ranges), or an assisted species migration (when a species is moved far from their original ranges to a location where they can ideally survive and thrive). Unlike other types of conservation strategies this involves humans not only deciding where a species will go, but actively working to move that species to a place where it may have never existed before.
There are a multitude of potential risks associated with bringing a species to a location where it doesn’t currently exist. First, there is the risk of it becoming invasive or disturbing a given ecosystem’s equilibrium. There is also the risk of disrupting historic evolutionary and ecological processes. And there is no guarantee that the relocated species will thrive or survive after being moved to new locations that are not their native habitat. The concept of assisted migration also raises serious ethical dilemmas for some, regarding the concept of humans playing the role of “planetary manager. However, scientists who have been studying the implications of assisted migration often consider the alternative, continued extinctions and loss of biodiversity. One study recently explained that we may be coming to time where humans must play in supporting novel ecosystems that support biodiversity through more active conservation strategies.
A growing number of studies examining the potential for assisted migration. For example:
- Canadian researchers showed that deliberate tree plantings at suitable locations and in suitable densities can force the migration rate to exceed current natural rates, thus staving off the possibility of extinction.
- Canadian scientists in British Columbia are also working on expanding the range of the western larch to the northern-most areas within their existing ranges in order to support their long term survival.
- There are efforts to move seed sources of the Ponderosa Pine from locations in southern Canada to provinces further north, where they do not currently exist.
- There is a seedbank at the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie outside of Chicago that is being developed both for current restoration purposes and potential future species distribution.
- In southern California there are efforts under way to relocate the endangered Bay Checkerspot Butterfly to areas in the north where the climate is more supportive of their survival, there is less pollution and other harmful environmental degradation, and where their food source is available.
- And an effort to find new locations where the threatened Florida torreya conifer tree can survive
In the case of the Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) a group of environmental activists and citizen scientists (known at the Torreya Guardians) have led efforts over the last decade to find locations where this species could likely thrive outside of its rapidly diminishing native habitat, along a stretch of the Apalachicola River’s headwaters near southern Georgia. The species began to decline in the late 19th century, when it was heavily logged and used for fuel. In the mid-1900s, it began dying off. Many attributed the rapid decline to a mysterious disease, the cause of which no one could identify. The tree has declined 99% in the last century and today, it is struggling to survive. There is some evidence in the fossil record that it had once survived in more northern stretches of forest and so in the interest of protecting biodiversity there has been an effort to find a new location for this tree species to take hold. Lee Barnes, a horticulturalist who has been active in the relocation efforts, explains that one doesn’t want to risk losing a species for which we are still learning what services it could provide, whether that be as part of the intricate web of an ecosystem of dependant organisms or for food/medicinal properties that we have yet to find. To this end there are currently seeding efforts on private properties in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio and Northeast. Ideally, according to Barnes, “we will be able to rewild the species.”
Jason Smith, associate professor of forest pathology at the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation would rather these efforts wait for science. In 2012, Smith and his colleagues have discovered that the real culprit in the decline of Florida torreya is a species of fungus called Fusarium torreyae. Smith believes the pathogen is not native to the U.S. and he fears that well-intentioned efforts to move the Florida torreya to the southern Appalachians could result in the spread of the fungal disease to other species.
“We are all concerned about how to best manage what is arguably the most critically endangered tree in America, and citizen science is great, but is has to be supported and driven by the scientific community.”
Many scientists are in support of further study of the potential for assisted migration although they consider it an action of last resort. The growing body of literature on this subject suggests there are indeed still many questions to consider, including the following.
- How are decisions made about candidate species for assisted migration and why? What are the priorities? Are there ecosystem services to be maintained? Genetic populations? Economic priorities?
- Where are species moved and what is the process to decide the end location?
- How does assisted migration interface with the more traditional strategies of conservation planning, ex-situ and in-situ approaches?
- Who are the players making the decisions about assisted migration and how can they be coordinated for optimized function and biodiversity goals?
- How is assisted migration or relocation handled across jurisdictional boundaries?
- What about moving entire networks of species instead of individual species?
- What sorts of monitoring protocols are put into place to study populations that have been moved, to make sure they are not having adverse effects in their new homes?
There is no single, one-size-fits-all adaptive strategy for facilitating climate-driven species movement as part of our work in conservation and restoration. Nor are the potential approaches limited to those mentioned in this article. Other concepts, such as transformative restoration, which involves taking advantage of climate-driven invasive species movement by replacing areas the retreat with plants native to surrounding regions, are out there, too. As the climate changes, more strategies will undoubtedly emerge.
By Jessica Norris
The United States alone has over 12,000 miles of seashore, and sea level rise will affect all of it. Many coastal communities are hardening their shorelines by enhancing bulkheads and other protective engineered structures, but such preparations will not help the non-human inhabitants of our shores find a place to live in the face of rising sea levels. Other approaches will be necessary if we are to allow coastal species to move in response to climate change.
Our efforts to prepare our coasts for climate change will affect coastal species that depend on specific coastal habitat (such as Seaside sparrows in the salt marsh) and a suite of species that reaches beyond the list of local inhabitants. Many animals rely on the coasts for parts of their life cycle: think of the single but critical night a Loggerhead turtle might come to shore to create a nest. Along the Atlantic flyway, migratory birds use seasonally available coastal resources. The migration of the Red knot, for example, is carefully timed to coincide with the availability of the eggs of horseshoe crabs.
Coastlines are inherently dynamic systems, and sea level has changed throughout geological time. During the most recent ice age, about 20,000 years ago, the sea level was about 130 meters below where it is today. Coastal plant and animal communities adjusted to the change, but two factors make adjusting to modern climate change different. First is the rate of change, which is estimated to be higher today than any time in the last 5000 years. Second, coastal systems are now so heavily built, there is often no room for migration.
What climate change will do to coastal ecology and how we can mitigate it depends heavily on local hydrology and the type of shoreline that we are talking about. A thumbnail classification of coastal ecosystems, used by NOAA, includes rocky shores, mud or sand flats, sand or gravel beaches (including those of barrier islands, which pose a special problem), and vegetated shores. Vegetated shores, which are often salt marshes in temperate zones and mangroves in tropical ones, are usually found on semi-protected stretches, where the wave action is not direct or intense. Armored shores, which have been reinforced by engineers, are yet another category, though they typically do not provide habitat for species, and therefore fall outside the focus of this article.
No matter the system under consideration, there are two overarching considerations. The first is the geologic context of a site and its history of formation. For instance, the location of headlands and offshore bathymetry may constrain the way a shoreline will be affected by storms or sea level fluctuations. Sediment transport is the second factor that will affect every site, and this dynamic brings in some upland factors, such as the sediment load of rivers, upstream dams, etc.
Even under the stable sea levels of the last millennia, coastal habitats represent a balance between accretion that deposits material onto the coast and the erosive force of the ocean. There are plenty of examples of coastlines where this balance tipped, such as that of Edingsville Beach, South Carolina, a pre-civil war resort town with over 60 buildings that was washed away by storm events over a hundred years ago. As we move into a future of sea level rise projected to reach a meter by 2100, we face the question of whether and where we can affect that balance of sedimentation and erosion so that coastal plants and animals will have a chance to move with our shoreline. Examples of such solutions can be found for every type of shoreline.
Losing beaches to erosion is enormously costly to local economies because of lost visitors and lost protection of infrastructure, so beach renourishment is the most significant large-scale management technique currently in use to prevent erosion. Beach renourishment means adding sand to a beach, often from coastal areas just beyond the shore. We do not understand the effect on local hydrology, especially when the source of the sand is close to where it is ultimately placed, for example if it comes from just offshore. Deepening the seafloor undoubtedly affects wave formation and the forces at work on the beach, but we don’t have a definitive explanation of the mechanisms, which, in any case, vary by site. The design of the beach is a little better understood. Beaches that are built or preserved with dune systems tend to be more resilient than those without, and they are better able to withstand storm events.
Barrier islands present unique opportunities for and challenges to beach restoration and conservation. Barrier islands, which make up about 12% of the world’s coasts, are extremely dynamic systems, in which the beach is typically eroded from the seaward side and sand is accreted on the inland side, usually during storm events that overwash the entire barrier. However, since barrier islands are also popular for tourist development or even the construction of cities, such as Abu Dhabi, this natural balance is usually impeded, and developed barrier islands tend to erode from both sides.
Galveston Island State Park in Texas is an interesting example because it actually spans the entire width of its barrier island. Biohabitats was contracted to work on its master plan after Hurricane Ike caused serious damage to park amenities- and we had the opportunity to explicitly consider the existing habitat types and how each might respond to sea level rise and future intense storms. Nevertheless, without galvanizing events such as these severe storms, climate change scenarios are too often neglected in coastal planning.
Vegetated shorelines such as salt marshes are systems that host a unique set of species and are unlikely to be able to move fast enough to remain intact in the face of sea level rise, especially where development and changes in hydrology have altered habitat immediately inland. The DC-Maryland Audubon is thinking specifically about preserving salt marsh habitat for species such as the seaside sparrow, black rail and clapper rail, all of which rely on Atlantic coast salt marshes. They are working in a site in southern Dorchester County, MD, to ameliorate the threat posed to them by sea-level rise.
In order to help ensure that this bird habitat can survive sea level rise, they employ a dual approach. “We need to make sure there are places to move upslope,” said David Curson, the Audubon chapter’s director of bird conservation, “and we need to increase the resilience of today’s marshes in order to slow the rates of loss.”
The results of their strategic assessment of ecological conditions revealed that the highest priority marshes were large open marshes, saltier marshes and intact marshes. They then modelled 25 year increments of marsh loss to pinpoint the best opportunities for marsh migration corridors, prioritized by whether they would be good investments, i.e. the likelihood of success. The first stages of implementing the plan were removing 10 acres of salt-stressed pines to accelerate the transition to open tidal marsh and a Phragmites control campaign. In the next steps, they will be attempting to raise the level of some of the priority marsh areas by blowing quantities of sediment over the open marsh, in effect mimicking the natural deposition process on an accelerated time scale. This technique is commonly used to bolster coastal protections in the Mississippi corridor and elsewhere.
Projects such as Audubon’s, which explicitly address adapting to sea level rise as a conservation goal, are few and far between. Even in the wake of events such as Superstorm Sandy, restoration projects too often neglect the real future of sea level rise, and perhaps the reasons are understandable. After all, the science of coastal restoration originated in the 1960s, and few restorations have endured anything like the scale of change we expect over the next 100 years. Even the life expectancy of most engineered bulkheads is only about half that. Significant variations in local conditions and dynamics also make generalizations difficult, but we can at least assert two things.
First, restoration practitioners are the repository of most of the accumulated knowledge and expertise in the techniques that would help, and second, innovation must be unceasing. There are fascinating experiments already underway. For example, the Dutch have created the Sand Motor, an artificial peninsula of 21,500,000 m3 of sand created in 2011 as an alternative to their previous five-year cycle of regular beach renourishment. The 315-acre sand deposition experiment defies conventional beach renourishiment, letting nature do the work to deposit sand along a stretch of coast that protects dense human settlements, the buffer wetlands, and the beach habitat. The first major push for evaluating its progress and determining whether it is functioning as it was designed to is now underway, so the jury is still out on whether this experiment will be deemed a success for infrastructure protection, much less for facilitating species movement. Nevertheless, it embodies the sort of innovation that will be needed in order to help our coasts and their inhabitants accommodate climate change.
Although we still have much to learn about climate-driven species movement, and despite the uncertainty that goes hand-in-hand with climate change models, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: if we are going to preserve biodiversity amid a changing global climate, mere habitat conservation will not be enough; we will need continental-scale wildlife corridors to allow for massive movement of plant and animal species.
Other articles in this issue focus on the mechanics of species movement, but this Spotlight focuses on what conservation actions are underway and necessary to facilitate it. One organization is hard at work creating just such corridors in North America: Wildlands Network (WN).Founded in 1991 by the “father of conservation biology,” Michael Soulé, and other scientists like Reed Noss, who recognized the need for landscape connectivity in conservation, WN is devoted to protecting enough connected wild places in North America to sustain wildlife and people through the 21st Century. The organization’s number one priority is completion of four North American “Wildways,” large, protected landscapes that would allow plants and animals to move along the continent as they adapt to climate change. Though the vision of these four continental wildlife corridors originated as a reaction to human development and related fragmentation of the landscape, it is now recognized as the most important adaptation measure we can take in response to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Together, the four envisioned Wildways will encompass millions of acres of protected land. The Eastern Wildway, which extends from the Everglades, along the Appalachians, to the Arctic, traverses a wide array of eco-regions including the Northern and Central Appalachians, the High Allegheny Plateau, the Southern Blue Ridge and Tropical Florida. The Western Wildway, also referred to as the “Spine of the Continent,” spans from the Mexican Sierra Madre Occidental range, through the Rockies, to Alaska’s Brooks Range. The Pacific Wildway runs along a fairly intact chain of mountains, from Baja, Mexico to the Prince William Sound in Alaska. The Boreal Wildway, built around the 1.2 billion acre Canadian boreal forest, runs from Alaska to the Maritime provinces of Canadian.
WN fully intends to bring its vision to life, and the organization is coming at it from every angle: linking and leveraging existing conservation programs and providing them with a continental-scale master plan; advancing the science and public access to information; informing policy; and generating awareness of the need for continental wildlife corridors in the hope that a growing groundswell of support will convert to political power.
“From the start,” said WN Executive Director, Greg Costello, “the strategy was to spread the word on the need for connectivity and look for local proponents to embrace that concept and begin to apply it in their region.” Outdoor adventurer John Davis’ high profile, human-powered TrekWest and TrekEast campaigns (discussed in this 2011 Leaf Litter interview with John Davis) are just two examples of the unique ways WN goes about spreading that word. The concept of continental-scale corridors caught on, as evidenced by the 2010 signing of Secretarial Order No. 3289, which launched the creation of regional Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and efforts like the Western Governors’ Association’s Initiative on Wildlife Corridors and Crucial Habitat.
“Today, if you look at almost any conservation organization in North America,” said Costello, “you will see a discussion of wildlife corridors, connectivity, large core habitats, and the importance of carnivores –all guiding principles of Wildlands Network.” Now that so many others share the vision of continental Wildways, WN is busy connecting, strengthening, and supporting their growing network of conservation partners.
Each Wildway is progressing at its own pace and through its own process, but all four are moving forward. Progress has been greatest with the Western Wildway. According to Costello, this is because WN’s founders’ relations and ties in the interior West quickly lead to regional efforts that were inspired by and embraced the WN vision. At the northern end of the Western Wildway, for example, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) was formed and quickly began developing plans, raising funds and awareness, acquiring land, and working with Native American tribes and Canadian First Nations. Further south, WN helped launch the Sky Island Alliance and Grand Canyon Wildlands Council which have made great strides in the Southwest.
In Colorado, the Southern Rockies Ecosystem project (now Rocky Mountain Wild) adopted the WN vision and mapped the state from a connectivity perspective. These and other partners now all work collaboratively as members of WN’s Western Wildway Network. To maintain momentum, WN is focused on developing more local organizations and reaching out to nontraditional partners to do the place-based work necessary to take action from the map to the ground. One example is the Western Landowners’ Alliance, a group of conservation-minded ranchers who have committed to managing their land according to conservation biology principles. Originally formed by WN, the Alliance now operates on its own, and has dedicated more than 13 million acres of land to the Western Wildway. Within the next two years, WN hopes to develop a WN affiliate in northwest Mexico.
Even without such an office, WN was able to establish an annual agreement with local ejidos in northern Mexico to protect habitat home to the last remaining thick-billed parrots, jaguars and ocelots.
Along the Eastern Wildway, WN has successfully collaborated with both the federal government and local conservation organizations. On the southern end of the Wildway, WN has been working with the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) and the US Geological Survey’s Southeast Climate Science Center to conduct habitat connectivity mapping and climate change analyses for a number of rare species.
WN played a key role in helping Two Countries, One Forest (2C1Forest), a Canadian-U.S. collaborative focused on protecting, conserving and restoring forests from New York to Nova Scotia, prioritize areas for conservation. 2C1 combined information from several studies with the Wildlands Network Design Tool, a mapping and planning tool built around cores, linkages, and compatible use or stewardship lands, to create 2C1’s report on Priority Locations for Conservation Action in 2008. “Wildlands Network brought a lot of science to the table,” said Gillian Woomer, 2C1 Forest treasurer and Assistant Director of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. According to Woomer, when a U.S. Fish & Wildlife grant made it possible to implement some of that conservation work in the U.S portion of the region through the Staying Connected Initiative, WN played an important role in coordinating the Initiative’s many partners.
Though progress has lagged on the Pacific Wildway, (largely due to lack of capacity, according to Costello) groups such as Conservation Northwest, Cascadia Wildlands, are making strides. Progress on the Boreal Wildway has been made without a tremendous outlay of WN’s limited resources. Thanks to the Pew Charitable Trust’s strong support of the International Boreal Conservation Campaign, and the fact that portions of the Boreal Wildway already being covered by the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, 350 million acres of Canada’s Boreal Forest have already been conserved.
In addition to building its network, WN is helping to advance science related to climate-driven species movement and connect it to the organizations and agencies that need it. For example, WN is working with the U.S. Department of Interior to provide a comprehensive package of data and landscape modeling for the entire United States. The package will be used to help the federal government determine what areas will be important for connectivity. While this effort is associated with mitigation for large energy development, Costello sees it as an opportunity to work with the administration and have a say in what areas of the country they pursue for large, comprehensive protection.
Costello admits that the array of climate models available to conservation practitioners, each with its own degree of uncertainty, can be dizzying. “One of the challenges for any scientist or organization working on this,” he says, “is that there are so many models out there, how do you pick?”
“My life has become a little simpler in this regard thanks to the work of Dr. Carlos Carroll,” said Costello. Dr. Carroll, Director of the Klamath Center for Conservation Research and science advisor to WN, developed a model called AdaptWest, a spatial database and synthesis of methods for conservation planning aimed at enhancing resilience and adaptation potential of natural systems under climate change. AdaptWest, which amalgamates several different climate change models, has now been integrated into the Conservation Biology Institute’s (CBI) Data Basin, a mapping and analysis platform that gives people access to spatial data, non-technical tools, and collaborative networks. “Working with Carlos Carrol and CBI to have a resource out there that organizations can use to fuse all of the climate modeling data for their particular region is exciting,” said Costello.
The uncertainty of projection models does not stop WN from pursuing its mission. “Scientists like 95% certainty with robust sample sizes,” said Costello. “That doesn’t work when you’re an advocate in conservation. We don’t know enough to have that level of certainty, but we know enough to make wise decisions.”
WN also knows enough to inform policy. Since 2008, WN has organized and run a Connectivity Policy Coalition. Jointly with Yellowstone to Yukon and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation WN recently hired a Washington, DC-based coordinator who is dedicated to this Coalition and who is already working the halls of Congress on behalf of large-scale conservation. “This has helped us establish a much more direct line to federal agency staff,” said Costello. For example, some Connectivity Policy Coalition members participated in a Federal Advisory Committee that worked with Forest Service in 2012 to revise the National Forest Management Act Regulations. For the first time since the Act was passed in 1976, regulations now specifically state that “connectivity” must be incorporated into national forest and grassland plans. The new regulations now provide WN with an opportunity to help local conservation groups get the data and expertise they need to work with their local national forest managers to make the right decisions regarding connectivity. This also presents an opportunity to reduce some of the uncertainty associated with modeling by incorporating local knowledge and citizen science.
The vision of four North American Wildways is utterly inspiring…but also daunting for a WN staff of nine with an annual budget of less than $1 million comprised mainly of donations. “There are a lot of downsides to being small,” said Costello, “but one of the upsides is you can be nimble.”
Remaining nimble will be important. Conservation approaches like Dr. Paul Beier’s corridor design-permeable landscape tool that focuses on maintaining ecological processes and provides for the movement of all native species, linkages, between wildland blocks and E.O. Wilson’s “Half Earth,” (based on his calculation that we need to set aside half of the planet for conservation in order to stave off a sixth mass extinction) are gaining support. “When you see an opportunity, you can figure out how to leverage a small group and create a larger group,” concludes Costello. That is precisely what WN is doing, and that larger group continues to grow as the need for continental –scale wildlife corridors becomes increasingly obvious. For more information, including how you can support Wildlands Network with a donation, click here.
We found many of these resources useful as we prepared this issue of Leaf Litter. We hope you find them helpful, too.
Climate Change Response Framework – a collaborative, cross-boundary approach among scientists, managers, and landowners to incorporate climate change considerations into natural resource management. It provides an integrated set of tools, partnerships, and actions to support climate-informed conservation and forest management.
Climate Linkage Mapper – a tool developed by The Nature Conservancy
Climate Wizard – the Nature Conservancy’s web-based program allows the user to choose a state or country and both assess how climate has changed over time and to project what future changes are predicted to occur in a given area.
Data Basin – a science-based mapping and analysis platform built by the Conservation Biology Institue
EcoChange-this Eurpean project aims to provide data, scenarios and associated confidence limits so that policy makers and land managers can use them for anticipating societal problems and for designing sustainable conservation strategies by accounting the most likely global change effects on biodiversity and ecosystems.
ECONNECT – a project to enhance ecological connectivity across the Alpine range.
PINEMAP disseminates knowledge that enables southern U.S. forest landowners to adapt forest management approaches and plant improved tree varieties to increase forest resilience and sustainability under variable climates.
PRISM– a knowledge-based system that uses point measurements of precipitation, temperature, and other climatic factors to produce continuous, digital grid estimates of monthly, yearly, and event-based climatic parameters
TransEcoNet – a project to develop and manage transnational ecological networks in Central Europe
The Yale Framework – assists conservation planners in selecting the assessment and modeling strategies that are most relevant to their specific needs.
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Erik J Nelson, Peter Kareiva, Mary Ruckelshaus, Katie Arkema, Gary Geller, Evan Girvetz, Dave Goodrich, Virginia Matzek, Malin Pinsky, Walt Reid, Martin Saunders, Darius Semmens, and Heather Tallis 2013. Climate change’s impact on key ecosystem services and the human well-being they support in the US. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: 483–893.
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Recent News Items/Blog Posts
Wetlands Refresh Utah’s Oldest Park
For more than 130 years, Liberty Park has been a popular retreat for the people of Salt Lake City. Now, it is poised to become just as popular for wildlife. Liberty Lake occupies nearly a quarter of the park’s 100 acres. While the lake’s main function is recreational such as paddle boats and feeding the ducks, it also functions as a stormwater detention pond. Emigration Creek and Red Butte Creek both flow into the lake. In 2010, the lake suffered severe impacts from an oil pipeline spill in Red Butte Creek. Although the lake was thoroughly cleaned, it still suffered from poor water quality.
Biohabitats helped the Salt Lake City Division of Parks and Public Lands restore vitality to the lake by establishing a native, emergent wetland and willow shrubland around its edge, creating floating wetlands, and improving the vegetative composition of an existing island. Community input, gathered through a series of public meetings, informed the restoration design, which featured interpretive signage created in collaboration with the nearby Tracy Aviary.
Planting was just completed at the end of August. While waterfowl exclusion fencing has been installed to protect the young plants, we look forward to seeing native birds such as the great blue heron or snowy egret.The new wetland system also helps clean stormwater runoff and provides a new way to experience and enjoy Liberty Lake.
Park to Become Stopping Point for People & Pollinators
The current site of South Carolina’s Stono River County Park was once slated to be a dense residential development right on the edge of a salt marsh, but the economic crisis became a boon to Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) when the development plans were scrapped and the property ended up in foreclosure. Local Charleston philanthropists generously purchased and donated the land to the CCPRC in 2013.
Biohabitats worked on a team with Stantec and the CCPRC to develop the master plan for the new park. The site is 83 acres, dominated by a tidal salt marsh that features two islands. One of the most important features of the site is its proximity to the West Ashley greenway, which currently terminates in an uninspiring gravel lot behind a sign company. The master plan includes passive recreation opportunities such as paddling and bird-watching, and a true trailhead designed to increase interest in the greenway, including signage, secure parking, and a restroom. After contributing to a baseline ecological assessment of the site, Biohabitats helped develop concepts for enriching its value to plants and wildlife. Biohabitats recommended a pollinator garden or habitat demonstration meadow that would both provide valuable resources to resident and migrating pollinators and serve as an inspiration to visitors for adding to the habitat value of their own land. Biohabitats also identified management needs and opportunities such as making the site’s vernal pools even better habitat for amphibians and placing bluebird boxes at an appropriate distance for the trail system.
A Library of Environmental Site Design (Literally)
Every drop of rain that falls at the Savage Branch and Stem Education Center, a branch of the Howard County, MD library system, goes on a journey that ultimately ends in the Chesapeake Bay. When County officials planned to renovate the branch, they wanted to be sure the site did its part to improve the quality of water on that journey. They envisioned the site as a model for best practices for stormwater treatment and a place to support the County’s STEM curriculum. Biohabitats helped the County realize this vision by crafting a design which distributes stormwater to multiple treatment points and uses natural, vegetated systems, porous paving, and cisterns to store runoff and filter pollutants from the water before it flows off site. These techniques, which mimic natural hydrologic conditions by retaining and slowly releasing runoff close to the source, not only clean polluted water, but help restore natural flow patterns. The site’s most unique feature is a multi-tiered “stormplanter,” comprised of interconnected cells containing native wetland plants and lined with bench seating. The planter captures stormwater from the building’s roof, filters it through the wetland cells, and allows clean water to soak into the soil. A hand pump provides library customers of all ages with the opportunity to draw filtered water from the planter and send it along a concrete flume reminiscent of the nearby historic Savage Mill.
Seeding the Future of Wastewater Treatment
In the last issue of Leaf Litter, environmental scientist Katie Bohren about Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove, Oregon, where Clean Water Services, the local utility, is creating a place of inspiration, wonder, and…wastewater treatment. We had a busy summer helping Clean Water Services prepare to transform three former sewage lagoons into a rich mosaic of riparian wetlands that will improve the ecological function of this section of the Tualatin River floodplain. The new “South Wetlands” will be a natural treatment system that cools treated effluent from the Forest Grove wastewater treatment facility through a series of emergent wetland cells before discharging to the Tualatin River. Over the next two months, more than 3.2 billion seeds will be spread on the site! Rootwads and snags will also be installed, along with more than 750,000 herbaceous plugs, stakes, and bareroot shrubs and trees.
Restoring ecology in one of the nation’s earliest planned communities
In 1967, one of the nation’s first master planned communities opened: Columbia, Maryland. More than 45 years later, Columbia continues to be a thriving and engaging community in Maryland’s fastest growing county. Over most of its history, Columbia’s downtown core has been structured around a shopping mall. But a new vision and plan are being implemented. Downtown Columbia is being transformed into a a true City in the Garden, as mixed use buildings are replacing parking lots, while existing open space is being conserved and restored. As a key member of the master planning team, Biohabitats helped establish a sustainability plan and environmental restoration goals. One such goal was to restore 5000 feet of a degraded tributary to the Little Patuxent River. The stream had suffered from years of conveying uncontrolled stormwater runoff from a sea of impervious area throughout the watershed. Working closely with the Howard Hughes Corporation, we crafted a plan to restore ecological function, stability, and resilience of the tributary. With 1,000 linear feet of stream now restored, we are designing the remaining stream reaches so that the channels and adjacent floodplain act in concert to mitigate storm flows, limit erosion, restore wetlands and improve both water quality and habitat. The restored stream corridor will improve life for Columbia residents and visitors by creating quiet, natural open space for passive recreation. It will also create necessary habitat for fish and wildlife in an ever urbanizing landscape between Washington, DC to Baltimore.
Powerful Partnershp Benefits Oregon’s Bronson Creek
Public utilities and municipal agencies, each with their own goals and budgets, can sometimes find themselves at odds. But when they join forces, as Clean Water Services and the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District (THPRD) did to enhance the floodplain of Bronson Creek in Beaverton, Oregon, amazing things can happen. Through this unique partnership, THPRD gave CWS a no cost easement to perform revegetation work to improve water quality and gain additional shade credits for their NPDES permit. We are helping CWS and THPRD install large woody debris structures– More than 150 rootwads and 250 vertical pin pile logs–among the beaver dams within the floodplain. Given the prevailing saturated soils, we are using steel plates to provide access for low ground pressure excavators. These log structures will not only help reconnect Bronson Creek with its floodplain and distribute flood flows over the floodplain; they will also provide habitat complexity and improved water quality. This winter, CWS will revegetate the 10-acre site, adding even more habitat.
EcoDistricts Summit, a global event dedicated to regenerating cities from the neighborhood up” will take place in Washington, DC September 24-26. If you’re attending, don’t miss Pete Muñoz and Doug Streaker’s mobile workshop on “Creating ecologically dynamic infrastructure in urban communities.”
We are delighted to sponsor Hammers and Ales on September 27, a fundraiser for the Baltimore Community ToolBank, an organization that lends tools to charitable organizations to increase the impact of their volunteer efforts in the community. If you plan to be in the Baltimore area and would like to attend, be sure to purchase your ticket before they run out!
This year’s Chesapeake Watershed Forum will take place September 26-28 in Shepherdstown, WV. Biohabitats senior ecologist Joe Berg will present a talk on “Regenerative Design for Waterway Improvement.”
From September 30-October 2, America’s Watershed Initiative Summit will bring together key private, public, and non-profit sector stakeholders to improve governance of the Mississippi Watershed. Biohabitats Senior ecologist Suzanne Hoehne is pleased to be one of them. She will co-lead a pre-conference work session for the Ohio River Basin Alliance Restoration and Protection workgroup.
The sixth Passaic River Symposium will take place October 9-10 in Montclair, NJ. Biohabitats Hudson River Bioregion Leader, Terry Doss will present a talk on “Utilizing Vacant Lands to Address Ecosystem Service Deficiencies.” Don’t miss it!
If you are heading to the Big Easy October 22-23 for the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo you are in for a couple of treats. And we’re not talking about the beignets. Senior engineer Pete Munoz will present “Net-Zero Nutrients – Crowdsourcing the Next Metric” and engineer Erin English will deliver a talk on “District System Benefits and Barriers: Learning From a Complex Example.”
What restoration milestones can be expected from an urban river restoration project? What does better look like for an urban river system? Find out on October 23, when Biohabitats president Keith Bowers co-leads a session at this year’s Bronx River Symposium.
If you are heading to Washington, DC October 23-24 to attend the National Workshop on Large Landscape Conservation, be sure to keep an eye out for landscape ecological planner/designer, Jennifer Dowdell.
We are very proud to sponsor the 2014 Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration and Biennial Meeting of The Coastal Society. Anyone who cares about getting projects funded will not want to miss Ted Brown’s session “Show Me the Money – Innovative Funding Models to Deliver Needed Restoration Outcomes Faster, Cheaper, Better. “ Terry Doss will moderate a session on Oyster Restoration: Techniques, Costs, and Lessons Learned and speak on “Nature-Based Coastal Management Strategies.” Ted Brown will present Joe Berg will lead a session on New Paradigms in Resource Management to Promote and Build Coastal Resilience”, which will include Darcy Turner’s presentation of “Innovative Strategies and Adaptive Restoration Approaches for Tidal and Nontidal Areas Given Changing Coastal Conditions” Be sure to check out Ed Morgereth’s poster on shoreline green infrastructure and the Maryland Coastal Bay Program’s poster on our Sand Seepage Wetland Restoration at Lizard Hill, MD. To see some innovative stream restoration in the nation’s capital in person, be sure to register for the field session we are co-leading with Underwood & Associates.
On November 3, the Engineering Green conference will showcase projects in both commercial and government sectors within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Water resources engineer Nick Lindow will be there. Will you? Landscape architect Adam Ganser will present “Utilizing vacant lands to address ecosystem service deficiencies” at this year’s annual gathering of the American Water Resources Association in Tysons Corner, VA November 3-6 .
Biohabitats president Keith Bowers will traveling to Bangalore, India to attend the invitation-only Best Practices and Technology Packages for Enhancing Functional Quality of Urban Landscapes as well as the 2014 International Congress on Green Urban Futures. World Parks Congress, November 12-17 in Sydney, Australia.
The Maryland Water Monitoring Council’s 20th Annual Conference will be held in Linthicum, MD on November 21. Senior ecologist Mike Thompson wouldn’t miss that one for the world.
A large contingent of Biohabitats team members will be at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver, CO November 21-24. On day one, Biohabitats Southern Rocky Mountain Bioregion leader Claudia Browne will co-lead a walking tour of sustainably-minded Fort Colllins, which includes local brewery tours and tastings. During the meeting, Keith Bowers, Claudia Browne, Jennifer Dowdell, Michael Spina, Andi Rutherford, Nicole Stern, Erin English, and Chris Streb will present on a range of topics including urban waterfronts, net zero design, ancient forms of green infrastructure e also look forward to talking with participants about Biohabitats’ unique culture and practice as part of ASLA’s Inside the LA Studio series.
Rob von Rohr, Senior Engineer, Southwest Basin & Range Bioregion Leader
In a way, leading one of Biohabitats’ bioregional offices is like being a telemark skier. It requires the ability to maintain balance, take risks, deftly shift direction when necessary, and make smart decisions in both man-made and back-country environments. Fortunately, Rob von Rohr, the new leader of our Southwest Basin and Range office, is a former nationally ranked telemark ski racer. In addition to those skills, he brings more than 20 years of experience to the Biohabitats team. Rob is eager to apply his expertise in Low Impact Design and natural systems for wastewater treatment to help us bring integrated water strategies to more communities in the arid Southwest. Before joining Biohabitats, Rob lived in Oregon, where he was able to fuel two passions: helping clients implement natural wastewater treatment systems, and surfing. Though he’ll be hard pressed to any surf in Santa Fe, Rob knows that his new post offers ample opportunity to channel not only his professional skills, but his joie de vivre by returning to the Land of Enchantment where he lived before Oregon. In fact, if you’re looking for Rob in the off hours, try checking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Rio Grand,Brazos Wilderness, or Chama River, where you’ll likely find him hiking, mountain biking, or camping.
Bryan Arvai, Water Resources Engineer
Today we welcome the newest member of our team, Bryan Arvai. As a kid with dreams of becoming a paleontologist, Bryan spent a lot of time looking back to the distant past. Today, as a LEED AP certified water resources engineer who specializes in LID design, he has clearly shifted his gaze toward the future. Bryan approaches his craft with the conviction that good engineering, environmental benefits, and long-term resilience should go hand-in-hand. He looks forward to applying that holistic perspective, along with his skills in stormwater modeling and BMP design to projects involving river restoration and stormwater wetland design. Bryan earned his BS in Environmental Engineering from The Ohio State University, and a BE from the University of Florida. When he is not busy coming up with engineering solutions that include ecological opportunities, Bryan enjoys hiking, golfing, gardening, cooking, and yes…an occasional fossil hunt.