Climate Change Impacts on Western Pacific Northwest Prairies and Savannas

This paper represents a collaboration by conservation practitioners, ecologists, and climate change scientists to provide specific guidance on local and regional adaptation strategies to climate change for conservation planning and restoration activities. Our geographic focus is the Willamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin (WPG) ecoregion, comprised of valley lowlands formerly dominated by now-threatened prairies and oak savannas. We review climate model strengths and limitations, and summarize climate change projections and potential impacts on WPG prairies and oak savannas. We identify a set of six climate-smart strategies that do not require abandoning past management approaches but rather reorienting them towards a dynamic and uncertain future. These strategies focus on linking local and regional landscape characteristics to the emerging needs of species, including potentially novel species assemblages, so that prairies and savannas are maintained in locations and conditions that remain well-suited to their persistence. At the regional scale, planning should use the full range of biological and environmental variability. At the local scale, habitat heterogeneity can be used to support species persistence by identifying key refugia. Climate change may marginalize sites currently used for agriculture and forestry, which may become good candidates for restoration. Native grasslands may increasingly provide ecosystem services that may support broader societal needs exacerbated by climate change. Judicious monitoring can help identify biological thresholds and restoration opportunities. To prepare for both future challenges and opportunities brought about by climate change, land managers must incorporate climate change projections and uncertainties into their long-term planning.


For more articles from the Spring 2011 issue of Northwest Science please refer to the link below:

The Future of Restoration and Management of Prairie-Oak Ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest