First Sierra Toolkit Released to Plan for Climate Change
Toolkit Will help Sierra Communities Adapt to Future Climate Scenarios
By: Sierra Nevada Alliance
Published: November 29, 2005 at 10:16
A Sierra based conservation group began providing members with a "toolkit" to help them prepare for massive climate change in the Sierra Nevada and West. The Sierra Nevada Alliance is warning that the Sierra Nevada is already in the process of losing up to 40% of it's snowpack and management of natural resources needs to be accounting for these changes.
Planning for Climate Change
The Sierra Nevada Alliance Climate Change Toolkit, encourages emission reductions and focuses on specific adaptation ideas for hundreds of planners working in areas such as hydropower relicensing, watershed protection, flood management, fishery management and land use planning. The Toolkit recommends that individuals and communities consider the following principles when planning for climate change:
1. Educate yourself and others regarding global, national and regional impacts of climate change.
2. Model and forecast a range of potential impacts from climate change in your area.
3. Allow for change by adopting adaptive management plans.
4. Monitor and track changes in weather, hydrology and ecosystems in your area.
5. Prioritize projects that will succeed under multiple scenarios for the future.
"We need to be planning NOW how to adapt to less snow, more fire, and many other changes,' said Joan Clayburgh, Sierra Nevada Alliance Executive Director . "If we plan now, we can protect our environment and economy."
Economic and Environmental Impacts: Who Needs to Plan?
* Hydropower – In the next 15 years over 100 dam licenses in the Sierra will expire. New licenses determine dam operations for 30-50 years. In the re-licensing process, planners will need to consider impacts to fisheries, ecosystems and increased extreme flood events.
* Watershed Assessment, Restoration and Protection – Alteration of the winter storm system will lead to drier soils, less groundwater recharge and more sediment transport in streams.
* Fish Restoration – Higher water temperatures will impact the life cycles of fish in wild habitat and in fisheries.
* Forestry – Increases in temperature will lead to greater incidence of fire, which may lead to a less desirable forest composition.
* Flooding – Heavier flows may overload and damage the current water systems, leading to human health risks.
* Land Use Planning – Development in the Sierra will necessarily put demands on the water supply and ecosystems that will already be strained by the effects of climate change.
Impacts of Climate Change on the Sierra
The Sierra Nevada provides over 65% of California's water supply, and in the next forty-five years as it warms the spring snowpack in the Sierra is expected to decline by about 25 to 40 percent. This is predicted to occur by leading scientists even under the best emission reduction scenarios. California's water delivery system is based on the current pattern of the Sierra snowpack melting over the spring and summer and refilling our reservoirs. In the future, winter rain and early-spring runoff will require the reservoirs to release water early to control floods, leaving less water during the hot summer months for irrigation and residential needs. This new pattern will affect not only fisheries and the surrounding ecosystems, but also the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and the agricultural region of the Central Valley that are supplied by Sierra watersheds. In addition, the recreation economy of the Sierra Nevada will be severely impacted as the ski season is shortened by 3 to 6 weeks by mid-century. Therefore, adapting to climate change will be integral to many types of planning in the Sierra.
See the Sierra Nevada Alliance Climate Change Toolkit and Factsheet for more details.
What You Can Do
Individuals can urge their conservation leaders and resources managers to incorporate climate change scenarios into their current planning processes. Organizations and individuals can visit the Sierra Nevada Alliance website or contact the Sierra Nevada Alliance for a copy of the Climate Change Toolkit.
By the end of the century, Sierra Nevada snowpack could be reduced to less than a third of current levels, even under a lower-emissions. Source: Climate Change in California, Union of Concerned Scientists
For a copy of the toolkit, factsheet and more information please visit the Sierra Nevada Alliance website at:
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