Conservation and Climate Change

MHLC, Conservation, and Climate Change

Land trusts have an important role in addressing climate change. Today, more than ever before, land protection is vital for ensuring that ecosystems and the species that depend on them will thrive tomorrow.Land Trust Alliance

By conserving land, MHLC is working to combat climate change. Conservation fights climate change in two ways.

  1. Offsetting Greenhouse Gases
    1. By preserving natural lands, we reduce potential development, thereby reducing future greenhouse gas emissions.
    2. Green spaces absorb existing atmospheric greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.
  2. Providing Space and Corridors for Wildlife
    1. Undeveloped land allows wildlife to move to areas of resilience as their ranges shift due to climate change.

By supporting our work, you are supporting action against climate change, right here in your back yard.

Forested landscapes store carbon dioxide.

Offsetting Greenhouse Gases with Natural Carbon Sequestration

By preserving forests, wetlands, and streams, MHLC is focusing on areas that are known to sequester, or store, carbon. Trees are the best example of this. Through photosynthesis, trees remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and transform it into food they need to grow/ The carbon is stored within the tree and within the root structure in the ground. This photosynthetic process ensures that less greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, thus offsetting the effects of climate change. Wetlands, forested streams, and grasslands also serve as good sequesters of carbon.

A recent paper by Ford and Keeton (2017) published in Ecosphere notes that “US forests currently offset 16% of the nation’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions”. By preserving lands with healthy forests, and protecting them forever, we are ensuring their long-term ability to sequester carbon and offset climate change.

Space and Connectivity for Moving Wildlife

MHLC has been working in several priority areas in the Capital Region. When we look at these areas more deeply, there are two functions these lands serve which link them together.

Black-capped chickadee by Robert Stone.

Firstly, MHLC looks to conserve lands that connect. Through connections of conserved lands, we are creating migratory pathways for wildlife, providing them with a safe passages, away from roads and developed landscapes. These connections are especially important as the climate changes. Current climate change models predict that New York State will, within the current generation, resemble the historic climate of the Virginias. This shift has already been seen in several species’ habitat distributions including birds, caterpillars and other insects. As the climate shifts, wildlife will need to move with it, and connected lands will help them get there.

Secondly, we look for lands that are resilient. These are lands that can bounce back quickly from disturbances such as fire, disease, and climate change. Resilient lands have certain characteristics that give them the ability to bounce back. Generally, resilient lands are found where there is extreme elevation change and topography – think of Helderberg Escarpment as an example. These extremes create microclimates, or a variety of small habitats within a small area, providing variety, diversity, and thus, resiliency to the organisms that live there.

Conservation Tools

MHLC staff identify climate-resilient properties

MHLC works with willing landowners to conserve their lands. Our staff analyzes potential conservation easements and land donations using The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Lands mapping project to ensure the lands we acquire not only meet MHLC’s acquisition criteria, but also meet regional goals of conserving resilient and connected lands which will provide for migratory movement for wildlife and ensure natural resource health for future generations.

Helpful Climate Links

Read our article “MHLC: Fighting Climate Change through Conservation,” featured in a recent edition of ViewPoints.

You can learn more about how your forest is offsetting carbon by reading Tree Power, recently published in the NY Times.

Jeff Leon is a conservation easement holder, the Preserve Steward of Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve, and a supporter and former Board Member of MHLC. He wrote a blog post about conservation and climate change on the Land Trust Alliance’s blog. Read his piece, “My response to our changing climate,” on the LTA website.

Visit the Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Landscapes website to learn more about this mapping tool.

Scenic Hudson recently released their information on sea level rise and potential impacts to the Hudson River communities. You can read more at their Sea Level Rise page.

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