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Climate Change: Our Priorities

Preparing People and Nature for Rapid Change

From Mongolia’s grasslands to Palau’s tropical reefs to Long Island’s coastal marshes, The Nature Conservancy is using conservation to strengthen natural habitats and build the resilience of vulnerable people and communities by helping secure their water, food and livelihoods.

These innovative, new approaches on-the-ground are also informing governments and communities around the world as they make policy and funding decisions about how to address the impacts of climate change.

Helping People and Nature Adapt

Longer droughts. Bigger floods. Stronger hurricanes. Melting glaciers. Rising seas. These are some of the impacts we hear most about, and some that are having the greatest impact on vulnerable people around the world. Water supplies for drinking and agriculture are at risk. Higher sea levels coupled with stronger storms put coastal communities in harm’s way.

By applying proven conservation methods and testing new approaches to make the natural systems we all rely on more resilient to climate change, “ecosystem-based adaptation” can help secure food, water and safety for people in the face of climate change threats.

Rising Seas and Stronger Storms 

Storms, sea level rise and warming ocean temperatures are all combining to put coastal communities here in the U.S. and around the world at risk. Promoting healthy reefs, mangroves and coastal wetlands can minimize damage to coastal communities by buffering them against increasingly frequent and intense storms.

Around the world, The Nature Conservancy is examining how conservation solutions can address coastal threats.

  • In Long Island Sound — one of the most densely populated coastal environments — our Coastal Resilience decision support tool helps stakeholders visualize the likely risks of sea level rise and coastal storms and cost-effective, ecosystem-based solutions, such as increasing the conservation of wetlands, to help protect communities and their properties. The Conservancy is working to adapt this experience to coastal communities in the Caribbean and Western Pacific.
     
  • In partnership with the Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities, the Conservancy worked with local communities in the Choiseul province of the Solomon Islands to create a three-dimensional model to help plan local coastal land and resource management in response to climate impacts. Based on this and other work in the Solomon Islands, we are convening partners and government agencies to scale up and integrate ecosystem-based adaptation into national and regional planning in Pacific Islands.
     
  • As rising sea levels eat away at North Carolina’s Albemarle Peninsula, we are restoring oyster reefs to reduce wave erosion and conserving additional vegetation in anticipation of a redrawn coastline.
     
  • A healthy reef provides people with a buffer from waves and storm surge, feeds coastal communities dependent on the sea for protein and livelihoods and sustains tourism economies, but corals reefs are already experiencing climate-related impacts. The Nature Conservancy is training managers around the world on how to maintain healthy reefs by reducing local stresses, such as overfishing and pollution, and how to design and maintain networks of protected areas to increase resilience of the entire reef system. 
Drought and Reduced Water Aupplies

Changes in how much and how often in rains has the potential to reduce water availability for people, agriculture and wildlife. Healthy forests and grasslands have natural water-retention abilities that, when effectively protected and managed, can store and release water even when rain is not falling.

The Nature Conservancy is exploring how investments in conservation now can keep these natural systems healthy and maintain their water-storing benefits in the face of climate change.

  • In various watersheds in South America, The Nature Conservancy has worked with water users — often including utility companies or downstream municipalities — to create a sustainable funding source for conservation projects that benefit the watershed. Now, we are evaluating the impacts climate change will have on these watersheds and exploring how these “water funds” can be part of the solution for communities and governments facing future water shortages.
     
  • In Mongolia, warmer and drier summers, coupled with heavier winter snows, have the potential to weaken livestock herds and put the livelihoods of Mongolian herders at risk. The Nature Conservancy is looking at how to set aside grassland areas from grazing during most years, and then use these “grass banks” for grazing in drought years when there is not enough forage for livestock. This can be thought of as type of insurance policy to help herders and their livestock survive tough years.

 

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