Monday, June 4, 2012

Climate change-resilient landscapes in Virginia and West Virginia

Steve Szkotak in the Deseret News via the Associated Press: Vast national forest areas and scattered pockets of undeveloped lands in in West Virginia and Virginia are among the regions that would be resilient to drought, rising temperatures and other threats associated with climate change, according to a study released Monday by The Nature Conservancy.

The study identifies "strongholds" that could provide habitat to a variety of plants and animals under the extreme climate change predicted by many scientists. They also would be sources of clean drinking water and other resources for human populations.

"These strongholds will be critical to all life as the threats of climate change continue to grow," said Michael Lipford, Virginia executive director of The Nature Conservancy. "They could serve as breeding grounds and seed banks for many plant and animal species that otherwise may be unable to find suitable habitat due to climate change."

Lipford said various species of birds are already responding to climate change, such as black vultures now appearing in central Appalachian mountains and red-bellied woodpeckers sighted in northern areas of Appalachia. "Yes, we are seeing movement of species and there are many others that we are still studying to see how that movement is taking place," he said in an interview.

Generally, areas with little development, a complex ecosystem and permeability — the ability of species to move across their landscape — are less subject to climate change and primary future destinations for species vulnerable to shifts in climate. West Virginia and Virginia, for instance, have millions of acres of protected forestland in the Jefferson and Monongahela national forests, which the study identifies as strongholds against climate change. ...

The Highest Waterfall in West Virginia. The Waterfalls at Falls Creek. 20 m (65 feet) high straight drop from the edge, shot by ForestWander, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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