Environmental Management

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 341-351

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Adaptation for Conservation Targets (ACT) Framework: A Tool for Incorporating Climate Change into Natural Resource Management

  • Molly S. CrossAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society Email author 
  • , Erika S. ZavaletaAffiliated withEnvironmental Studies Department, University of California
  • , Dominique BacheletAffiliated withConservation Biology Institute
  • , Marjorie L. BrooksAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Southern Illinois University
  • , Carolyn A. F. EnquistAffiliated withThe Wildlife SocietyUSA National Phenology Network
  • , Erica FleishmanAffiliated withBren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of CaliforniaJohn Muir Institute of the Environment, University of California
  • , Lisa J. GraumlichAffiliated withCollege of the Environment, University of Washington
  • , Craig R. GrovesAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy
  • , Lee HannahAffiliated withCenter for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS), Conservation International
    • , Lara HansenAffiliated withEcoAdapt
    • , Greg HaywardAffiliated withRocky Mountain Regional Office, U.S. Forest Service
    • , Marni KoopmanAffiliated withGeos Institute
    • , Joshua J. LawlerAffiliated withSchool of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington
    • , Jay MalcolmAffiliated withFaculty of Forestry, University of Toronto
    • , John NordgrenAffiliated withKresge Foundation
    • , Brian PetersenAffiliated withMichigan State University
    • , Erika L. RowlandAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Daniel ScottAffiliated withUniversity of Waterloo
    • , Sarah L. ShaferAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey
    • , M. Rebecca ShawAffiliated withEnvironmental Defense Fund
    • , Gary M. TaborAffiliated withCenter for Large Landscape Conservation


As natural resource management agencies and conservation organizations seek guidance on responding to climate change, myriad potential actions and strategies have been proposed for increasing the long-term viability of some attributes of natural systems. Managers need practical tools for selecting among these actions and strategies to develop a tailored management approach for specific targets at a given location. We developed and present one such tool, the participatory Adaptation for Conservation Targets (ACT) framework, which considers the effects of climate change in the development of management actions for particular species, ecosystems and ecological functions. Our framework is based on the premise that effective adaptation of management to climate change can rely on local knowledge of an ecosystem and does not necessarily require detailed projections of climate change or its effects. We illustrate the ACT framework by applying it to an ecological function in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, USA)—water flows in the upper Yellowstone River. We suggest that the ACT framework is a practical tool for initiating adaptation planning, and for generating and communicating specific management interventions given an increasingly altered, yet uncertain, climate.


Adaptation Climate change Conservation Decision-making Management Natural resources