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The Ethics of Adapting to Climate Change  RSS feed

Posts: 2554
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Greetings fellow Permies!

I wanted to get some other perspectives on adapting the environment to climate change.

As a background, I was having a conversation with a forester friend of mine regarding natural succession in the boreal forest. This was after the Fort MacMurray fire, and we were going over how, as food plants such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries were among the first on the scene after disturbance (in Northern Ontario, anyways), which migrating birds will eat, and then defecate further along their route, migratory birds were a vehicle of climate adaptation, and that we may see species spread due to this.

This lead into a conversation later where I was positing to a resident of Northern Ontario (in the New Liskeard area) a number of scenarios in which I as a private landowner would transform the barren Boreal desert into the lush diversity more reminiscent of the boreal/temperate hardwood transitional zones further south.

She was horrified that I could possibly think that it was a good idea to replace the boreal with anything else, in light of the fact that so much was changing already, and why did feel the need to push it further? Where would all the moose live?

When I brought up that the forester friend (family of hers) mentioned that the genetics they source for the replanting of trees were coming from hundreds of kilometers south because they didn't think that native genetics would be able to survive and adapt to changing conditions, there was an acceptance, but clearly an entrenched aversion to change.

I get it. I drive past the old family cottage we got rid of nearly twenty years ago, and the way they changed the property, and the changes to the area sometimes get me down, but they're due, for the most part, to the growth of the area and its residents.

Is there an ethical issue here? How do we adapt things without alienating those for whom changing these ecosystems, potentially doomed though they be, is contrary to their views of conservation? Am I wrong to think that we should be helping nature to adapt, as forestry professionals are already doing by sourcing warmer-climate genetics of the same species for planting projects into the future?

Posts: 138
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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The concept of "assisted Migration" seems to be slowly catching on, personally I'm all for it, taking climate change into consideration is very sensible for both cultivated and wild species plantings, particularly for long-term perennial/tree plantings. I just make sure not to take it too far, I experiment with plants from further south, some make it and some don't, some make it for the first few years and then a colder winter comes along and damages/kills them, so it's good not to put all our eggs in one basket. While I'm convinced climate change is real and happening, there's still plenty of uncertainty regarding how exactly the climate in any of our particular locations will change, and how fast.

Rabbiteye blueberries have turned out to be the best variety for me, some going through six winters (one down to -6 degrees F) with no problems and liking our growing season weather better than the northern types that are most commonly planted around here. I planted my first yaupon holly last year, it made it through the winter fine so I planted more, but it's still to be seen how they handle a colder winter.

A few times when traveling northward, I've collected a bunch of seed from various wild plants that were at the right stage and just scattered them in what has a chance of being suitable habitats. I don't know if any actually took, it's a rough road from seed to mature plant in any wild setting.

As far as wild species go, given how fragmented the habitat has become I really think it's now our responsibilty to help species move to habitats that will work for them in the future, especially species that can't move as fast on their own such as plants with larger seeds. Plants spread by birds will probably be able to find their own way just fine. Here's the website of an organization dedicated to assisted migration.

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