As climate change threatens wet landscapes with persistent and intense droughts, natural resource managers look for ways to preserve the remaining habitats of the rare species that dwell in them.
It’s not easy.
“There’s a big problem with managing climate sensitive species,” said Sue Galatowitsch, professor of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at the University of Minnesota.
That problem – the uncertainty of the future climate – was the focus of a recentstudy of how best to protect a rare orchid in Minnesota called the small white lady’s slipper.
“Management of very specific, local sites is important because conservation is really a boots on the ground effort,” Galatowitsch said.
State plans guide policy, but day-to-day decision-making usually happens one place or person at a time.
Managers need to know what climate impacts they can expect, how likely they are and what local strategies best promote native plant growth, Galatowitsch said.
In the Great Lakes region, the lady’s slipper is rare, threatened or endangered in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and New York. It is no longer found in Pennsylvania.