Protecting nature…one park at a time.

National Parks and other protected areas represent a critical bastion in protecting nature as climate change impacts the function of ecosystems and the health of species. Parks also present a unique opportunity for scientists to study these unique processes how climate change will impact some of our most precious landscapes is a complex and urgent scientific problem as well as one for conservation professionals.

Breakout sessions.

Breakout sessions.

So, on April 27 and 28, 2011, in a tremendous show of collaboration, the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the National Park Service (NPS) brought dozens of professionals together for an in-depth workshop to address the impact of climate change on our regional Parks. Rarely do academic researchers, Park scientists, conservationists and land managers get an opportunity to cross their institutional boundaries. But in demonstration of the need to collaborate, the workshop at UCLA had 80 people come together from universities throughout the state, local and state agencies, non-profit organizations and the National Park Service.

The workshop was organized by the Mediterranean Coast Network of the NPS Inventory & Monitoring Program, the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science and the UCLA Center for Climate Change Solutions. By combining efforts, tremendous progress was made over two days on the two core purposes of the workshop: to identify priority research projects that will improve our ability to understand, predict and manage ecological responses to climate change in southern California coastal parks, and to identify specific monitoring needs that will assist in documenting ecological responses to climate change.

Response to the workshop was tremendous, with surveys indicating high levels of satisfaction by participants. The first day of the workshop was dedicated to a thorough discussion of the science of climate change and its impacts on parks, leading to rich discussions about how to advance the research enterprise.

With talks from UCLA experts (and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability affiliates) including Alex Hall and Curtis Deutsch of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Rich Ambrose of Environmental Health Sciences, Victoria Sork of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Terri Hogue of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UCLA demonstrated its unparalleled capacity and expertise in climate change and ecosystem science. By bringing in other international experts that included Kelly Redmond of the Desert Research Institute, Steve Beissinger of UC Berkeley and Dan Cayan of Scripps/USGS, the UCLA-NPS partnership also demonstrated its power as a convener of important discussions on critical interdisciplinary topics.

Panel discussion

Panel discussion with Glen MacDonald (UCLA), Dave Busch (USGS), Christy Brigham (NPS – SMM) & Alex Hall (UCLA).

NPS scientists and managers brought their deep bench of expertise and invaluable expertise as professionals on the front lines of climate change impacts to researchers as well. With in-depth discussions and break-out sessions on specific topics of interest to marine systems, vegetation, fire and hydrology, wildlife, and climate science, NPS employees and researchers were able to identify critical research needs as well as critical monitoring and data needs for advancing conservation.

Results from the workshop will capitalize on the phenomenal momentum that was generated. Participants and organizers alike are committed to incorporating the breakout groups' recommendations into research plans and to create a standing committee to sustain this effort. By identifying funding and staffing resources, describing valuable research projects, and incorporating new monitoring strategies in the I&M program, this workshop will continue to live through the active collaboration of this broad and important group from NPS and UCLA.

To learn more about the Climate Change Workshop click here.