Adaptation Strategies to Address Climate Impacts to Natural Systems

Adaptation Strategies to Address Climate Impacts to Natural Systems

Robert Alan Cline
U of MN's Regional Sustainability Development Partnership
Time Slot: 
Tuesday 11:10am - MCAP Session 1
Session Type: 
Symposium (Individual Presentations)

Minnesota and other northern states with similar ecosystems have been seeing climate impacts on our natural systems. Work is underway to develop adaptation strategies in a number of areas. This session highlights three of those systems where work is underway: Forests, as demonstrated by the Northern Larch Beetle’s impacts on tamaracks; Wetlands and aquatic biodiversity; and lake warming and impacts on fish communities.

Cross-Cutting Themes: 


Developing climate change adaptation strategies for sustaining wetland and aquatic biodiversity
Susan Galatowitsch, University of Minnesota’s Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Department
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Central to sustaining the biodiversity of Minnesota’s wetlands, lakes, and rivers in an era of climate change will be managing ecosystems to promote their resilience, i.e., the extent to which they recover after natural and human-caused disturbances. Effective resilience strategies will be those that allow an ecosystem respond gradually to a changing climate. Managing ecosystems so disturbances do not trigger a shift to a stable state of a few invasive species is clearly critical, given anticipated lags in adaptation or migration of many native species. In this presentation, I will discuss ways to “downscale” adaptation planning from region to site using knowledge gained from past restoration efforts, risk-based frameworks, and scenario planning coupled to ecological models. Despite the high-level of uncertainty inherent to climate change predictions, these approaches can be used to identify actionable resilience strategies for managing the complex interacting stressors that threaten aquatic biota: climate change, invasive species, impaired water quality and quantity.

How climate change has allowed a benign little insect to decimate Minnesota’s tamarack
Brian Aukema, Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota
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A large outbreak of eastern larch beetle in the Great Lakes region over the past fifteen years has killed more than a third of Minnesota’s mature tamaracks, an important lowland conifer. Eastern larch beetle is a native insect that has been known for more than a century and is present throughout the transcontinental range of eastern larch or tamarack. Any tree-killing activity by this insect has always been localized and of short duration, which makes its recent activity in Minnesota a stark departure from previous patterns of behavior. I will share how our laboratory unexpectedly discovered that a portion of the population of this insect is able to shift its annual life cycle in response to an extended growing season associated with a changing climate. These patterns have allowed eastern larch beetles to increase in numbers and exacerbate tree mortality on scales previously not thought possible. Does adaptation suggest a future with less tamarack in Minnesota?

Variable lake and fish community responses to climate change
Gretchen Hansen, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
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Inland waters are warming, with consequences for ecosystem functions and fisheries management. Understanding and predicting thermal habitat within individual lakes is an important component of climate adaptation. We simulated contemporary (1979-2015) and future (2020-2100) thermal habitat for over ten thousand lakes in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. Warming rates in the contemporary period varied substantially among lakes, depths, and seasons. Future simulations suggested that lake warming is expected to continue in the 21st century, albeit at slower rates relative to recent observations. Modeling scenarios and analysis of field data suggested that lake size, water clarity, and depth are strong controls on the sensitivity of lakes to climate change. Specifically, a 1% annual decrease in water clarity was sufficient to fully offset the effects of climate change on whole-lake temperatures for many lakes. Fish community dominance is affected by thermal habitat availability. In some lakes, shifts from coolwater walleye (Sander vitreus) to warmwater largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) dominance are expected as temperatures increase, while populations in other nearby waters are comparably resilient. Understanding heterogeneous lake and fish responses to climate warming could help managers connect lake-specific features with improved climate resilience, allowing prioritization of climate adaptation efforts.