It’s easy to assume we can address climate change by protecting the places where plants and animals live today. But the truth is, temperature changes will shift habitat, while spurring droughts, floods and other extreme weather.
In face of this uncertainty, smart conservation is an effective way to save wildlife and help communities prepare. Using climate-resilience science, land trusts can identify and protect large tracts of land harboring “micro-climates”—natural strongholds which are better equipped to recover from disturbance—that we can protect today to support plant, animal and human communities tomorrow.
Today, OSI has moved to the forefront of the climate-resilience conservation movement.
Why address climate change
Safeguarding large landscapes has always been a hedge and a buffer against climate change, but with development of climate-resilience science, we can now identify landscapes whose unchanging characteristics can help us endure as the world warms.
Resilient landscapes are natural areas with a variety of land formations such as slopes, cliffs, valleys and ravines, and different soil types.
Together, these features combine to form individual micro-climates, each one a place where different forms of life can thrive. These landscapes not only protect wildlife, but also defend against flood, drought and other risks to human communities.
OSI has served as an expert on climate-resilience science, promoting its approach throughout the land trust community to enable widespread wildlife conservation.
- Our Resilient Landscapes Initiative has mobilized land trusts to conserve 37,000 acres of climate-resilient lands across the Northeast, and supported over 60 organizations in the development of climate-resilient conservation plans that cover all or part of nine states.
- In 2014, President Obama commended the Initiative for its investment in natural infrastructure, citing our nation’s “moral obligation” to future generations to protect resilient landscapes.
- Thanks to our input, the 2016 New York Open Space Conservation Plan, which serves as a blueprint for the state’s land conservation efforts, now includes protection of climate-resilient lands.
- Some 80 percent of the lands OSI has protected in New York alone are climate-resilient, including places in the Hudson Highlands, the Shawangunk Ridge, and Catskill Mountains.