WCS North America

Climate Change

Climate change is arguably the pre-eminent challenge facing the conservation of wildlife and wild places.  The WCS North America Program is addressing this challenge to ensure the long-term success of our conservation efforts. Warming has already begun to affect wildlife by shifting species’ ranges, altering the timing of seasonal events, decreasing snowpacks and streamflows, increasing lake and stream water temperatures, and melting glaciers and sea ice.  As North America and the rest of the planet continue to warm, the conservation of diminishing water sources will likely become a major focus for local communities and public land managers. Other anticipated changes include the expansion of severe wildfires, increased drought frequency and severity, increased plant and wildlife disease outbreaks and insect infestations, and the degradation of vulnerable habitats, all with major implications for wildlife. There is a growing need for conservation actions now to help offset inevitable changes in landscapes and wildlife populations.

The WCS North America Climate Change Program is developing management guidelines for conserving priority landscapes and species in North America in light of rapidly changing climate by:

  1. Detecting and understanding the consequences of climate change for wildlife.  We do this by conducting research on the projected and observed vulnerability of particular habitats, ecosystems and wildlife species to climate change, as well as the capacity of those species and systems to cope with climate-driven impacts.
  2. Working with local, regional, state and national natural resource managers and private landowners to implement wildlife conservation and land management strategies that buffer species and ecosystems from the consequences of climate change.
  3. Working with government agencies, First Nations, and private landowners to enhance water conservation strategies for vulnerable fish and wildlife species and habitats.
  4. Developing and implementing strategies for protecting connectivity needed to allow wildlife and the resources they rely on to move and persist as climate changes.


Climate Change Adaptation Planning

The adaptation for conservation targets (ACT) framework is designed to motivate collaborative, scientifically defensible climate change planning for specific landscapes or seascapes by a multidisciplinary group of scientists and practitioners. This simple, yet structured, approach builds familiar elements of natural resource planning into a process tailored for addressing climate change. Read More >>

Climate Change in the Adirondacks

One of the primary threats to the Adirondack ecosystem and its wildlife, climate change is at the top of most lists of conservation challenges. WCS is providing information on the impact of climate change on the region, and the opportunities that we have to guard against climate change and its impacts. Read More >>

Climate Change Impacts in Arctic Alaska

WCS is raising awareness on the effects of climate change on wildlife and wild lands in Arctic Alaska in two ways. First, we are investigating potential climate change impacts to breeding birds at our long-term monitoring sites on the coastal plain and on muskox in the western Arctic through on-the-ground research activities. Secondly, we are working with key stakeholders and collaborators (including USFWS, BLM, conservation NGOs, and academic scientists) to better understand where and how to support wildlife conservation in the Alaskan Arctic with respect to climate change through the development of conservation strategies and adaptive planning. Read More >>

Climate Change Adaptation Fund Grantmaking

The Climate Adaptation Fund is a grants program managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society made possible through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. This program provides support to non-profit conservation organizations throughout the United States to take on-the-ground actions focused on implementing priority conservation actions for climate adaptation at a landscape-scale. Read More >>

Latest Publications

All Climate change Publications >>

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WCS North America Program
212 South Wallace Avenue, Suite 101 Bozeman, MT, 59715 USA
(406) 522-9333

Key Staff

Molly Cross
Climate Change Adaptation Coordinator
Erika Rowland
Climate Change Ecologist
All Climate Change Staff >>