The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies Center Director Heidi Hertler and I recently attended a three day working group on climate adaptation sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund. The meeting, held in Mexico City, brought together WWF conservation team members from around the globe (as far away as Nepal) to discuss adaptation practices and strategies concerning the Central American and Caribbean regions. The workshop, led by Shaun Martin, an SFS Trustee and WWF’s Managing Director of Conservation Leadership and Capacity Building, focused on global conservation practices that are “climate smart”: practices that take into consideration the growing number of extreme climatic events that disrupt and threaten biodiversity on Earth.
Conservation efforts today cannot be “business as usual” – simply protecting habitats and threatened species. Being climate smart means thinking about a future world that may look quite different than the one we now inhabit – hotter, more crowded, and subject to frequent disruptions that are difficult to predict. Central themes of the workshop revolved around understanding climate variability, the impact of extreme weather events, reducing risk and implementing plans to minimize impacts to vulnerable ecosystems and human communities, and enhancing opportunities for damaged systems to become resilient to climate shifts.
The School for Field Studies benefited greatly by attendance at the workshop. SFS has a goal to expand our teaching and research on climate change at all our centers in the world and to incorporate climate adaptive practices in our research plans. SFS is fundamentally about understanding how humans can best serve healthy and viable ecosystems and in return reap the benefits of sustainably managed natural resources. Being climate smart will allow SFS to continue to be a strong influence in environmental field-based education in general and be a positive contributor to the local people in which we share a home.