Regional climate change adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation in a midcontinental region of North America

Susan Galatowitsch, Lee Frelich, Laura Phillips-Mao

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94 Scopus citations


Scenario planning should be an effective tool for developing responses to climate change but will depend on ecological assessments of broad enough scope to support decision-making. Using climate projections from an ensemble of 16 models, we conducted an assessment of a midcontinental area of North America (Minnesota) based on a resistance, resilience, and facilitation framework. We assessed likely impacts and proposed options for eight landscape regions within the planning area. Climate change projections suggest that by 2069, average annual temperatures will increase 3 °C with a slight increase in precipitation (6%). Analogous climate locales currently prevail 400-500 km SSW. Although the effects of climate change may be resisted through intensive management of invasive species, herbivores, and disturbance regimes, conservation practices need to shift to facilitation and resilience. Key resilience actions include providing buffers for small reserves, expanding reserves that lack adequate environmental heterogeneity, prioritizing protection of likely climate refuges, and managing forests for multi-species and multi-aged stands. Modifying restoration practices to rely on seeding (not plants), enlarge seed zones, and include common species from nearby southerly or drier locales is a logical low-risk facilitation strategy. Monitoring "trailing edge" populations of rare species should be a high conservation priority to support decision-making related to assisted colonization. Ecological assessments that consider resistance, resilience, and facilitation actions during scenario planning is a productive first step towards effective climate change planning for biodiversity with broad applicability to many regions of the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2012-2022
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Many people assisted us in our search for regionally-relevant climate projections, and we thank them all for their time and contributions. In particular, we would like to thank the following: Dr. David Mladenoff (Dept. of Forest Ecology & Management, Univ. of Wisconsin) for introducing us to the Statistically Downscaled WCRP CMIP3 Climate Projections website; Dr. Peter Snyder (Dept. of Soil, Water, and Climate and Dept. of Forest Resources at the Univ. of Minnesota) for his assistance with using the downscaled climate model website and for producing the 2030–2039 and 2060–2069 difference maps; and Joel Nelson (Dept. of Soil, Water, and Climate, Univ. of MN) for creating the natural areas map and converting the climate change projections to GIS maps. Financial support for this project was provided by the University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, through the Fesler-Lampert Endowment.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Climate models
  • Conservation planning
  • Minnesota
  • Reserve design
  • Scenario planning


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