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“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change!” - Charles Darwin

Changing Landscapes in the Chicago Wilderness Region:
A Climate Change Update to the Biodiversity Recovery Plan

Recognizing the potential of climate change to jeopardize the conservation investment that has taken place in the Chicago Wilderness region, in 2007 the Chicago Wilderness Executive Council established Climate Change as one of four thematic initiatives, along with the Green Infrastructure Vision, Leave No Child Inside, and Restoring the Health of Local Nature. To define and carry out the work of this initiative, Chicago Wilderness established the Climate Change Task Force (Task Force) to “study and make recommendations on adaptation strategies and models for mitigation in order to address the local impact of climate change.” In 2008, the Task Force produced Climate Change and Regional Biodiversity: A Preliminary Assessment and Recommendations for Chicago Wilderness Member Organizations (see Box 1) that reviewed the current science of climate change and summarized the dramatic changes projected for the Chicago Wilderness climate system and expected impacts to biodiversity.

Based on this assessment, the Task Force developed and launched the Climate Action Plan for Nature (CAPN) in 2010. The Climate Action Plan for Nature focuses on climate change impacts to biodiversity and lays out specific actions for engagement, mitigation and adaptation aimed at promoting and sustaining biodiversity in a changing climate.

The tenets of the Biodiversity Recovery Plan Climate Change Update (Update) are imbedded within the Climate Action Plan for Nature adaptation section. This tool, however, is intended to be a more detailed and stand-alone reference that supports the development of specific adaptation strategies for the natural communities of Chicago Wilderness. The general aim of the Update is to provide a tool that assists land managers, policy makers and individuals in creating and implementing strategies for biodiversity recovery and adaptation in Chicago Wilderness. In addition, this information is intended to encourage discourse on the ways in which climate change may influence how we think and act. For example, communities as we know them are likely to change, as all of the component species may respond to climatic changes in different ways and at different rates (Root and Schneider 2006). As such, we may need to shift from thinking about “communities” from a static perspective, to focusing more on specific conservation targets and the functionality of ecosystems.

The goals of the Update are to 1) discuss the impacts of climate change on specific Chicago Wilderness conservation targets and threats 2) evaluate the conservation strategies currently being used in Chicago Wilderness through a climate change lens and 3) outline actions and strategies that can help promote biodiversity adaptation for specific conservation targets 4) encourage communication among managers, and between managers and researchers, on what research is needed to help inform adaptive management decisions.

The intention of this first iteration of the Biodiversity Recovery Plan climate change review is to provide Chicago Wilderness members with the necessary background to understand the threats our natural communities may face from climate change, to recognize the need to review our biodiversity recovery and conservation strategies through a climate change lens, and to present initial suggestions to help our communities adapt. In the end, our ability to be successful in the approaches we take to adapt our biodiversity will largely depend on our openness to try new strategies and our readiness to share the outcomes with one another, in terms of what is working and what is not. This is a living document, meant to promote dialogue between Chicago Wilderness members on all facets of biodiversity adaptation in our region, from research and planning to implementation and outcomes. This document is an on-line resource for two reasons. The first is to enable land managers and others who are implementing these strategies to give their feedback. Secondly, to allow the document to be kept up to date as new information becomes available. If you have comments either on current content or patterns/trends being observed at particular sites, please add these to the comment section at the end of each webpage. Comments will be reviewed and integrated on a regular basis.