Saturday, April 23, 2016

Delaware Water Gap Offers Climate Adaptation Opportunities

OSI's map showing the recent acquisitions supporting
climate resilience in the Delaware Water Gap.
In my PhD research, one of the questions I investigated was how topographic complexity provides a wide range of habitat diversity that can be accessed over short distances. This high density of climate niches, soil types, and vegetative communities provides a time buffer for species as they adapt to the relatively fast changes associated with human-caused climate change. Species are less likely to become extinct if they can migrate a short distance (or seeds can disperse a short distance) to a new location with suitable conditions to sustain generations while longer-distance migration mechanisms take place.

Recently, the Open Space Institute (OSI) studied the climate resilience around the Delaware Water Gap and evaluated diverse geology, diverse landforms, connectedness, and intact biological condition - all factors that provide this time buffer to climate change. Through this analysis they demonstrated the importance of the Delaware Water Gap in sustaining species through the anticipated climate change and justified the conservation of 3 additional tracts of land which have been acquired as of this month (April 2016).

This is a fantastic example of strategic conservation - OSI and their partners built on an existing high quality habitat in the middle of a relatively developed landscape. They added critical features like intact forest, high quality streams, and large wetlands. Many of our most imperiled species rely on these high quality aquatic habitats. The fact that OSI was able to include them in the recent conservation acquisitions is really a significant contribution to conservation in general and climate adaptation in particular.

NJ Spotlight covered the story.

The Open Space Institute's work was funded through a grant by the Doris Duke Foundation. Partners' work was partially funded by the William Penn Foundation.
OSI worked with The Conservation Fund and the Trust for Public Land.