Ecosystem management techniques that promote habitat resilience, many of which are already best management practices, will support effective climate change adaptation.
Gradual climate change has occurred throughout Earth’s history and contributed to dramatic events such as glaciation, desertification, and the distribution and extinction of plants and animals. Today, we are experiencing climate change linked to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in the atmosphere. These GHGs enable sunlight to reach Earth’s surface but prevent heat from radiating back into space. While the risks of future global warming cannot be fully predicted, the scientific community has established that ecosystems and human communities will encounter numerous stresses.
At Fermilab, potential risks to the natural environment include:
- Increase in extreme weather events (e.g., drought, heat, rainfall, cold, blizzard, tornado)
- Increased duration and frequency of flooding
- Increased disease and insect pestilence
- Disruption of phenology and dependent processes
- Loss of native species and associated ecosystem services
Large areas devoted to natural plant communities characteristic of robust ecosystems increase the capacity of the Fermilab site for carbon sequestration and floodwater storage. Numerous surface water bodies on site are managed in a way that maximizes watershed protection downstream and increases the service that ecosystems provide through increased biological and functional mechanisms. The inclusion of native, drought-tolerant plant species into constructed landscaping increases resilience to temperature extremes and a decrease in precipitation associated with climate change. The maintenance of restored ecosystems also reduces the impact of the so-called heat island effect, lowering surface temperature.
Ecosystem management techniques that promote habitat resilience, many of which are already best management practices, will support effective climate change adaptation. Climate change mitigation strategies that may affect Fermilab operations are outlined in the annual Fermilab Site Sustainability Plan.