Environmental Management

, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 1103–1114 | Cite as

Integrating Climate Change into Habitat Conservation Plans Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act

  • Paola BernazzaniEmail author
  • Bethany A. Bradley
  • Jeffrey J. Opperman


Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are an important mechanism for the acquisition of land and the management of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. HCPs have become a vital means of protecting endangered and threatened species and their habitats throughout the United States, particularly on private land. The scientific consensus that climate is changing and that these changes will impact the viability of species has not been incorporated into the conservation strategies of recent HCPs, rendering plans vulnerable biologically. In this paper we review the regulatory context for incorporating climate change into HCPs and analyze the extent to which climate change is linked to management actions in a subset of large HCPs. We conclude that most current plans do not incorporate climate change into conservation actions, and so we provide recommendations for integrating climate change into the process of HCP development and implementation. These recommendations are distilled from the published literature as well as the practice of conservation planning and are structured to the specific needs of HCP development and implementation. We offer nine recommendations for integrating climate change into the HCP process: (1) identify species at-risk from climate change, (2) explore new strategies for reserve design, (3) increase emphasis on corridors, linkages, and connectivity, (4) develop anticipatory adaptation measures, (5) manage for diversity, (6) consider assisted migration, (7) include climate change in scenarios of water management, (8) develop future-oriented management actions, and (9) increase linkages between the conservation strategy and adaptive management/monitoring programs.


Biological conservation Climate change Habitat conservation plans Ecosystem management Endangered species act Reserve design Adaptation strategy Conservation planning 



We wish to acknowledge the help of Dr. David Wilcove who provided initial guidance for this effort. Dr. David Zippin, Dr. Erica Fleishman and Dr. Scott Fleury provided input on early versions of the manuscript. Tim Messick gave valuable graphical support, and two anonymous reviewers provided important insights that improved the final version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paola Bernazzani
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bethany A. Bradley
    • 2
  • Jeffrey J. Opperman
    • 3
  1. 1.ICF InternationalChagrin FallsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  3. 3.The Nature ConservancyChagrin FallsUSA

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