Montana State University

MSU ecologist co-authors book to provide climate change strategies for land managers

October 13, 2016 -- Denise Hoepfner, MSU News Service

Andrew Hansen, left, professor of ecology and director of the Landscape Biodiversity Lab at Montana State University, and Tom Olliff, co-coordinator for the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, are two of the co-authors of the book Andrew Hansen, left, professor of ecology and director of the Landscape Biodiversity Lab at Montana State University, and Tom Olliff, co-coordinator for the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, are two of the co-authors of the book "Climate Change in Wildlands: Pioneering Approaches to Science and Management." 
MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

Andrew Hansen, left, professor of ecology and director of the Landscape Biodiversity Lab at Montana State University, and Tom Olliff, co-coordinator for the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, are two of the co-authors of the book "Climate Change in Wildlands: Pioneering Approaches to Science and Management." MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- A Montana State University ecologist has co-authored a book with the goal of helping land managers tackle issues facing America’s wildlands that are caused by climate change and land use.

The book, “Climate Change in Wildlands: Pioneering Approaches to Science and Management,” is a collaboration between scientists and land managers providing straightforward information for creating and implementing management plans that take into account the effects of a changing climate. Island Press published the book in June.

“The book is meant to be somewhat of a primer on how climate has changed over the past century and how is it projected to change in the coming century and what that might mean for forests, wildlife and fish communities in the Rockies and Appalachian mountains,” said Andrew Hansen, professor in MSU’s Department of Ecology in the College of Letters and Science who is the lead editor of the book and author of several of its chapters.

Hansen was also the lead principal investigator of NASA’s Landscape Climate Change Vulnerability Project, the five-year research project that spurred the book’s creation.

What makes the book a unique resource, Hansen said, is that in addition to providing the latest climate change information, it also includes examples of scientists and land managers working together to come up with management solutions to deal with climate change impacts.

“We worked closely with colleagues in the National Park Service and the (U.S.) Forest Service and other federal agencies in devising what science questions should be addressed and in trying to come up with actual management actions that could be used, and then evaluating the likely outcomes of those actions so the managers have a good basis for implementing them,” he said.

Tom Olliff, a co-editor of the book and co-principal investigator of the NASA climate change study, lent his land management expertise to both projects.

Prior to his current position as coordinator for the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Olliff worked for 32 years in various roles at Yellowstone National Park, ending his time there as its chief of resources, overseeing all park science and resource management operations.

“My big job in the park was making sure that when we made decisions, we made them using the three-legged stool model – with the best available sound science, what was best for public interest and fidelity to the law -- so I had a lot of experience in using science to inform management decisions,” Olliff said.

Olliff calls the book the “capstone” of the NASA project and said it has served as the impetus for further research efforts.

“What has been interesting is that the project continues to live on and spawn other projects,” he said. “It has been fun for me to be part of a project that we continue to use and continue to learn from.”

The book, which is also edited by William Monahan, quantitative analysis program manager at the USDA Forest Service and David M. Theobald, senior scientist at Conservation Science Partners, is divided into four sections. Authors who were involved with the NASA project, as well as key land managers, were the primary authors of those chapters, Hansen said. Four of the chapters focus on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  

The book opens with an explanation of the general ways federal agencies are tackling climate change.

“These are more high-level initiatives, such as Department of Interior secretarial orders, and the book is about how to implement them in the real world, how to take these lofty and broad policy statements and actually put them on the ground.”

The second section covers climate and land use changes over the past century and what is predicted in the future. In the third section, the authors describe how past climate changes have influenced wildlife, forests and fish and how they may be influenced in the future.

The final section is dedicated to land management and includes actual case studies, Hansen said.

“The book has some nice overviews of challenges and opportunities for managing under climate change and then, importantly, we have case studies largely written by managers,” he said. “These chapters speak to what managers are actually doing in their national forest or in their national park based on what they’ve learned by participating in the project.”

Ultimately, Hansen said, the authors hope the book will provide a valuable service to people who live and work in these ecosystems and provide a basis for scientists and land managers to more effectively manage federal lands under changing climate and land use.

“There’s a lot of confusing information out there,” he said. “We are trying to represent, in a straightforward way, the current state of knowledge of how climate has been changing, how is it likely to change in the future, and what those changes might mean for certain natural resources that people care about.”

To order “Climate Change in Wildlands,” go to http://islandpress.org/book/climate-change-in-wildlands and use the code 4PIONEER for a 20 percent discount. The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and through several Montana booksellers at http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781610917124 .

Andrew Hansen, hansen@montana.edu or (406) 994-6046