How to help wildlife cope with climate change

By Joshua Rapp Learn

A young bull moose. ©Karen Laubenstein, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Want to know what you can do to help manage wildlife cope with climate change?

Government agencies and research institutions have developed an online tool that points everyone from policymakers to landowners and the common population to activities that will bolster vulnerable species from climate change-related problems.

“This tool was developed to inform and inspire local action,” said Michelle Staudinger, an adjunct assistant professor of environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a science coordinator with the U.S. Geological Survey. “It’s created for local decision makers.”

Species in Massachusetts face a number of different climate change-related issues. Moose (Alces alces) are at the southern end of their range and could be pushed out of the state as temperatures warm up while blackpoll warblers (Setophaga striata) could face changing forest habitat conditions. Changing rainfall patterns are also affecting the marbled salamander (Amystoma opacum).

The Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool website is packed with information organized around themes that divide issues into different categories based on your interest in pitching in, or what your skills or set of expertise might be.

Staudinger said that the parties involved compiled information from a number of climate change vulnerability assessments for the state, looking at how different fish and wildlife species may shift their habitats across their range as well as how climate will affect environments more widely.

The website is divided between different areas of interest. By clicking through labels like “Fish and Wildlife” or “Wetland and Aquatic Resources,” you can focus in on the issues that most interest you, or what species you may be interested in helping.

The site is also designed so that people can help in ways that are suitable to their means, meaning everything from donating to appropriate land trusts for conservation to volunteering a few hours of grunt work behind a shovel.

“This online tool will provide a pathway for citizens and local and state land managers to make intentional, climate-smart decisions about actions they can take to enhance climate resilience for the plants, animals and ecosystems of Massachusetts,” said Virginia Burkett, associate director of climate and land use research at the USGS, in a release.

“We wanted to empower people to make their own decision. Or to get people as far along as they could,” Staudinger added. “In some cases we actually have a phone number of someone you can call to help you make that choice.”

The site is also divided up along geographical regions, so that people can look for ways to help wildlife deal with climate change in their own regions.

“The benefit to wildlife will be that the public and local decision makers will have information at their fingertips now to help them make more informed decision that take into account climate change and the future of these species,” Staudinger said.

The tool was developed by the Massachusetts Climate Adaptation Partnership, made up of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Department of Interior’s Northeast Climate Science Center at UMass Amherst and the USGS’ Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Joshua LearnJoshua Rapp Learn is a science writer at The Wildlife Society.

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