Climate Adaptation Reports

The National Wildlife Federation has a long-standing commitment to addressing the impacts of climate change on wildlife and natural habitats, and to advancing the science and practice of climate adaptation.

National Wildlife Federation staff have published extensively on the topic of climate change and wildlife conservation, including the development of widely used guides to the practice of climate-smart conservation and vulnerability assessment. Many of these publications are listed below and available for download. Read the comprehensive list of adaptation-related publications that have been authored or co-authored by the National Wildlife Federation staff.

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Commander’s Guide to Climate Adaptation for DoD Natural Resource ManagersCommander’s Guide to Climate Adaptation for DoD Natural Resource Managers (2020)

This guide is designed to help military leadership understand how climate impacts to DoD natural resources can pose risks to training and testing capabilities. Based on the more detailed publication Climate Adaptation for DoD Natural Resource Managers, the guide includes a set of key questions for commanders to help them ensure that climate concerns are addressed in natural resource planning and management as means of enhancing installation resilience and maintaining military readiness.

The Protective Value of Nature report coverThe Protective Value of Nature (2020)

The Protective Value of Nature summarizes the latest science on the effectiveness of natural infrastructure in lowering the risks to communities from weather- and climate-related hazards. Evidence suggests that both natural and nature-based approaches for hazard mitigation can be equally or more effective than conventional structural approaches, and they are often more cost-effective. Since healthy, intact ecosystems are often adapted to natural disturbances such as floods and wildfires, they may have the capacity to withstand or recover from extreme weather- and climate-related hazards and adjust to ongoing environmental changes. Conventional structural approaches (i.e., “gray infrastructure”), on the other hand, often require ongoing maintenance, and may need costly repairs when they fail or are damaged. Thus, natural defenses can play a critical role in enhancing the resilience of human and ecological systems to natural disasters and climate change.

Softening Our Shorelines report coverSoftening Our Shorelines: Policy and Practice for Living Shorelines Along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts (2020)

Softening Our Shorelines is designed to promote the broader application of living shorelines across the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. National Wildlife Federation partnered with the Coastal States Organization to review the use of living shorelines across these regions and analyze policies and permitting requirements that may provide incentives—or barriers—to the broader use of these ecologically friendly shoreline protection techniques. The report provides a state-by-state summary of policies relevant to living shorelines and offers recommendations and best practices for how federal and state agencies can promote the increased application of living shorelines.

Climate Adaptation for DoD Natural Resource Managers: A Guide to Incorporating Climate Considerations into Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans (2019)

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) supported the National Wildlife Federation’s development of this guide to help DoD installation managers factor climate change into their natural resource conservation efforts. DoD owns or manages more than 25 million acres across the United States, which support an extraordinary array of biodiversity including numerous rare and endangered species. Climate change not only poses risks to these species and ecosystems, but threatens to compromise the ability of installations to support their training and testing functions and military mission. Building on the National Wildlife Federation’s Climate-Smart Conservation framework, this guide offers an adaptation planning approach that allows DoD installation managers to prepare for and reduce their climate-related risks.

Climate Change and Conservation in the Southeast report coverClimate Change and Conservation in the Southeast: A Review of State Wildlife Action Plans (2018)

This report looks at how state fish and wildlife agencies across the southeastern United States addressed climate change in their recently updated Wildlife Action Plans. The report was produced as part of the Vital Futures project, a collaborative effort of the National Wildlife Federation, North Carolina State University, and University of South Carolina funded by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southeastern Climate Adaptation Science Center. The report is designed to support the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS), a state-federal collaboration working to sustain thriving fish and wildlife populations and to improve quality of life for people across the southeastern United States and Caribbean.

Great Marsh Coastal Adaptation PlanGreat Marsh Coastal Adaptation Plan (2017)

The Great Marsh Coastal Adaptation Plan details an adaptation planning effort lead by the National Wildlife Federation (in partnership with the Ipswich River Watershed Association) that focused on six vulnerable coastal communities in northeastern Massachusetts (Salisbury, Newbury, Newburyport, Essex, Ipswich, and Rowley). This report includes town-specific vulnerability analyses, identifies specific and regionally-oriented strategies to reduce vulnerability, and highlights key recommendations for advancing the implementation of nature-based adaptation strategies in the Great Marsh Region.

National Wildlife Federation Report: Building Ecological Solutions to Coastal Community HazardsBuilding Ecological Solutions to Coastal Community Hazards: A Guide for New Jersey Coastal Communities (2017)

This report advances practices designed to help coastal communities become safer and more sustainable in ways that work with, rather than against, nature. It describes ecological solutions to coastal community hazards, including measures to protect open space, and enhance and protect coastal ecosystems (including beaches and dunes, coastal forests and shrublands, and tidal marshes) in ways that increase elevation and reduce erosion and flooding risks. By highlighting ecological solutions to New Jersey's coastal hazards, communities can better prepare for and adapt to ongoing and future changes, strengthening long-term coastal resilience for both people and wildlife. The guide was produced by the National Wildlife Federation in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning with financial support from the U.S. Department of the Interior and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program.

Improved Use and Understanding of NNBF in the Mid-AtlanticImproved Use and Understanding of NNBF in the Mid-Atlantic (2017)

This report, a guide to actionable solutions for implementing natural and nature-based features, was developed by the National Wildlife Federation with support from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) under an award from the U.S. Department of Interior. Created using input from a variety of stakeholders from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, the report reveals challenges and provides solutions to improve implementation of natural and nature-based features. Key concepts addressed in the report include: building the case for NNBF; site assessment; project design; project permitting; and performance monitoring.

National Wildlife Federation Report: Natural Defenses in ActionNatural Defenses in Action: Harnessing Nature to Protect Our Communities (2016)

Natural Defenses in Action highlights the important role that natural and nature-based approaches can play in reducing the mounting risks to our communities from weather and climate-related natural hazards. The report highlights how properly managed ecosystems and well-designed policies can help reduce disaster risk in ways that are good for both people and nature. The 2016 report profiles a dozen case studies that highlight best-in-class examples of how natural defenses are being put to use to avoid or reduce risks from flooding, coastal storms, erosion, and wildfire. It illustrates that harnessing nature to protect people and property is not just a good idea—it already is being done across the country!

Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather (2014)

This report addresses the mounting risks of flooding and hurricanes to U.S. communities and how natural systems can help reduce risks from these natural hazards. A collaboration of National Wildlife Federation, Allied World Assurance Company, and Earth Economics, this publication considers whether federal, state, and local officials are using the policy tools at their disposal to protect people and property endangered from these growing threats. The report profiles how natural and nature-based approaches, such as restoration of wetlands, dunes, riparian areas and living shorelines, can be cost-effective and wildlife-friendly means of making coastal and riverine communities safer and more resilient to floods and hurricanes.

Best Practices for Climate Change Adaptation: Spotlight on Michigan Coastal Wetlands (2014)

The National Wildlife Federation and Great Lakes Commission collaborated on a project to identify approaches to climate change adaptation applicable to Michigan coastal wetlands. The project entailed working closely with a Project Review Committee made up of experts from agencies, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and private industry. Through committee input, a literature review, and experience of core team members, both adaptation best practices as well as criteria for evaluating and ranking them were identified. The resulting toolkit includes descriptions, challenges and benefits, case studies, and resources for 18 best practices, at both the institutional and project level. This toolkit should be useful for coastal wetland managers in Michigan as well as other coastal states considering how to manage wetlands in a changing climate.

National Wildlife Federation Report: Climate Smart ConservationClimate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice (2014)

The National Wildlife Federation and an expert workgroup consisting of leaders in climate adaptation from federal and state agencies and non-governmental organizations offer guidance for designing and carrying out conservation in the face of a rapidly changing climate. This guide will help conservationists and resource managers incorporate climate change considerations into their work. The report demystifies the discipline of climate adaptation by offering a common-sense approach to adaptation planning and implementation that breaks the process into discrete and manageable steps.

Green Works for Climate Resilience: A Community Guide to Climate Planning (2014)

The intent of this guide is to provide communities with an overview of the kinds of nature-based approaches that can be used to respond to and prepare for the impacts of climate change, and provide descriptions and examples of the ways in which communities are already working to implement them, ranging from streamlining adaptation into existing zoning to the development of holistic, multi-sector adaptation plans. Nature-based approaches rely on enhancing, protecting, and restoring natural infrastructure, such as coastal wetlands, parks, and tree canopies, as well as features that mimic natural processes, such as rain gardens or green roofs that are used in low-impact development (LID).*

Assessing the Vulnerability of Key Habitats in New York: A Foundation for Climate Adaptation Planning (2013)

The National Wildlife Federation in cooperation with New York's Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources (DFWMR) conducted a statewide habitat vulnerability assessment in an effort to evaluate the vulnerability of New York's Primary Habitats. The assessment focused on upland systems that together cover 65 to 70 percent of the total land area in New York. Marine Systems were not included in the analysis due to limitations in the scope of the methodology. The goal is that the information developed through this project and included in this document will broadly inform the incorporation of climate change considerations into the revision of New York's Wildlife Action Plan.

Safeguarding Washington's Fish and Wildlife in an Era of Climate Change: A Case Study of Partnerships in Action (2013)

The National Wildlife Federation and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have been leading a multi-faceted effort to address climate change in its mission to safeguard the state's wildlife and natural habitats for current and future generations. This report is intended to serve as a case study for ways in which state agencies and NGOs can work together to forward meaningful climate change adaptation strategies, and it highlights several of WDFW and the National Wildlife Federation's collective efforts to date, including the successes, lessons learned, and opportunities for moving forward.

Virginia's Climate Modeling and Species Vulnerability Assessment: How Climate Data Can Inform Management and Conservation (2013)

Climate change impacts will directly affect wildlife and their habitats as well as exacerbate already existing stressors, and as a result conservation and management goals and strategies will likely need to be reconsidered in light of these changes. To meet this need and provide essential climate information for updating Virginia’s Wildlife Action Plan by 2015 (as required by U.S. Congress), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the National Wildlife Federation began a project with the Conservation Management Institute (CMI) at Virginia Tech to downscale climate data for Virginia and conduct a vulnerability assessment of a selection of species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) from the Action Plan. This report includes a summary of the findings from the modeling effort and assessment as well as highlights management concerns and implications based on the assessment results.

Managing Coastal Watersheds to Address Climate Change: Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Options for the Middle Patuxent Subwatershed of the Chesapeake Bay (2013)

Many resources have been focused on the restoring the Bay and while improvements have been made, climate change effects will likely exacerbate existing stressors. The National Wildlife Federation worked with NOAA and other technical experts to complete a vulnerability assessment and identify potential options for climate-smart restoration and conservation practices to address those impacts at a subwatershed scale (Middle Patuxent subwatershed).

Advancing Landscape-Scale Conservation: An Assessment of Climate Change-Related Challenges, Needs, and Opportunities for the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative (2013)

What do resource managers and conservation practitioners need in order to address the challenges posed by climate change in their work? This assessment begins to answer this question for the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative region, identifying four core needs and a range of science and conservation opportunities in the region.

Quick Guide to Climate-Smart Conservation (2013)

How should we be carrying out conservation efforts in a warming and increasingly climate-altered world? This Quick Guide summarizes guidance developed by an NWF-led expert workgroup, and draws from a forthcoming full-length publication on the principles and practice of climate-smart conservation.

Preparing for and Managing Change: Climate Adaptation for Biodiversity and Ecosystems (2013)

The National Wildlife Federation led the development of this peer-reviewed article on climate adaptation as part of a technical input to the U.S. National Climate Assessment focused on biodiversity and ecosystems. Published in a special issue (November 2013) of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and co-authored by 11 leading scientists, this article provides an introduction and overview to the emerging field of climate change adaptation as it relates to conservation of species and ecosystems. The paper finds that given directional shifts in many climatic variables, adaptation efforts will need to emphasize managing for inevitable ecological changes, not just for the persistence of existing conditions.

Practical Guidance for Coastal Climate Smart Conservation Projects in the Northeast: Case Examples for Coastal Impoundments and Living Shorelines (2011)

This coastal climate-smart guidance was developed through funding the National Wildlife Federation received from the Wildlife Conservation Society to provide natural resource managers tools for integrating climate change into on the ground projects. This document, which focuses on the integration of climate change into the design of living shorelines and coastal impoundments, was developed by an expert panel.

National Wildlife Federation Report: Restoring the Great Lakes’ Coastal FutureRestoring the Great Lakes' Coastal Future: Technical Guidance for the Design and Implementation of Climate-Smart Restoration Projects (2011)

This guidance document provides an initial suite of tools and methods to assist in the planning and implementation of climate-smart restoration by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its partners and grantees. The guidance is intended to be a living document that evolves in response to workshops, trainings, on-the-ground projects, and other stakeholder input.

Climate Change Effects and Adaptation Approaches in the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative Region: A Compilation of Scientific Literature (August 2011)

New studies on climate change are released so quickly, it can be difficult for resource managers to keep on top of the most current research. As the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NPLCC) begins operation, the National Wildlife Federation has produced two reports—one for marine and coastal systems and the other for freshwater and riparian systems—that draw from more than 400 resources to present the first-ever compilation of current scientific understanding of climate change impacts on marine and freshwater ecosystems and adaptation options in the region (extending from Southern Alaska to Northern California). The reports are:

Moving the Conservation Goalposts: A Review of Climate Change Adaptation Literature (2011)

One of the most discussed topics in the adaptation field today is how to set appropriate conservation goals in light of climate change. Moving the Conservation Goalposts: A Review of Climate Change Adaptation Literature, prepared by staff at National Wildlife Federation for the Adaptation 2011 Workshop, reviewed the historic evolution of conservation goals (protecting scenic landscapes, balance of nature, species preservation, biodiversity) and discussed how goals may evolve as the effects of climate change become more pronounced. Highlighted themes included “the death of stationarity,” conservation of important ecological processes, and the change continuum of resistance, resilience and transformation.

National Wildlife Federation Report: Scanning the Conservation HorizonScanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (2011)

This guidance document, which won the Department of the Interior's Partners in Conservation Award, is the product of a diverse expert working group representing federal and state agencies, universities and non-profit conservation groups. The document focuses on the key components of vulnerability—sensitivity and exposure—and reviews the best practices for conducting assessments of species, habitats, or ecosystems.

Climate Change in the Great Lakes: Advancing the Regional Discussion (2011)

This proceedings document is the product of a climate change adaptation workshop for stakeholders in the Great Lakes region. The goal of the workshop was to give United States federal agencies guidance on how to integrate climate change into agency actions. Additional workshop goals included fostering collaboration between organizations in the Great Lakes and informing on the ground practice.

Climate Change Effects on Natural Systems in Washington State (2010)

To understand how climate change is affecting ecosystems and habitats throughout Washington State, National Wildlife Federation and Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife produced four reports compiling literature on the effects of climate change on ecological systems. These reports detail how climate change is altering freshwater systems, marine systems, shrub-steppe and grassland systems, and forest, alpine, and western prairie systems. The reports contributed to development of the Washington State Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy and the Pacific Northwest Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. Learn more.

National Wildlife Federation Report: Standing TallStanding Tall: How Restoring Longleaf Pine Can Help Prepare the Southeast for Global Warming (2009)

This report summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States' Southeastern forests. It argues that restoration and expansion of longleaf pine forests will help the southeast adapt to the increased temperatures and altered precipitation patterns expected with climate change. Longleaf pine also has the potential to help the southeast withstand natural disasters, sequester carbon for climate change mitigation and play an important role in the local economy.

A New Era for Conservation: Review of Climate Change Adaptation Literature (2009)

This literature review was prepared for the National Wildlife Federation's Adaptation 2009 Workshop and summarizes recent science on climate change adaptation in the context of natural resource management and fish and wildlife conservation. The report reviews basic adaptation principles, as well as broad adaptation principles for forests, grass and shrublands, freshwater systems and coasts and estuaries.

Virginia's Strategy for Safeguarding Species of Greatest Conservation Need from the Effects of Climate Change (2009)

Virginia's Wildlife Action Plan identifies more than 900 species that are being impacted by the loss or degradation of their habitats. In coming decades, climate change will exacerbate and intensify many of the existing threats and will likely result in new sets of impacts and stressors. This guide, which is the product of a collaboration between the National Wildlife Federation, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Virginia Conservation Network identifies climate change adaptation strategies that can be followed to protect Virginia's species of greatest conservation need from this emerging threat.

Setting the Stage: Ideas for Safeguarding Washington's Fish and Wildlife in an Era of Climate Change (2009)

This report is the product of a stakeholder workshop hosted by the National Wildlife Federation, our affiliate Washington Wildlife Federation and others to identify adaptation strategies for Washington's fish and wildlife. The report identifies key climate impacts and management strategies for coastal and marine habitats, freshwater, grass and shrublands, and forests as well as offering general principles for facilitating adaptation.

Preparing for Sea Change in Florida (2008)

This report, prepared by the National Wildlife Federation and other members of the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, discusses the anticipated impacts of climate change on Florida's ocean and coast and recommends policy actions at the local, state, regional, and federal level to prepare for these threats. Specific threats addressed in this report include; sea level rise, extreme weather, increased ocean temperature, and acidification.

The Gardener's Guide to Global Warming (2007)

This brief guide shows gardeners how they can help mitigate the effects of and adapt to climate change by taking action in their own backyards and communities. Suggested activities include incorporating native plants into gardens, developing rain gardens, and planting roof gardens.

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