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Diversifying to Cope with Climate Change

To increase the capacity of communities to deal with higher climate variability and weather extremes diversify. Diversify crops, livestock, trees, energy and stormwater management practices. Diversify to cope with increased climate variability so that if one system or species fails, there are backups and backups to the backups.

"Diversification" was a theme of the second Minnesota statewide climate change conference, convened in Minneapolis, Minn., in November. Over 200 people from around Minnesota, many of them government officials, academics and natural resource professionals heard the important messages about adaptation strategies for communities facing increasing temperatures, fluctuating precipitation patterns and more frequent severe weather events.

Harold Brooks, Senior Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations National Severe Weather Laboratory presented a keynote lecture about climate variability. He spoke of tornadoes, thunderstorms and hail events and how and why they are changing. According to Brooks and others, what we have learned to accept as typical over the last century is quickly becoming more frequent and more severe in some areas and less so in others.

How does a community cope with such climate variability? Communication, innovation and creativity said another keynote speaker, Steve Adams, Senior Program Director of the Institute for Sustainable Communities' U.S. Climate Adaptation Program. He thought it was imperative that community leaders talk to each other and to climate scientists about preparing for and embracing a different climate future.

Many presentations introduced actionable strategies. For example, some presentations encouraged storing more water on land in wetlands, rain gardens and cisterns to cut the velocity of water eroding community infrastructures during severe storms. Another presentation touted the benefits of planting a variety of trees. For communities in the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota, this would include current natives mixed with shade, drought and fire tolerant species such as bur oak, red oak, white pine and basswood that are expected to thrive in warmer and drier conditions.

Conference participants seemed ready to move toward a more climate ready Minnesota, and Sea Grant is prepared to help them and others do just that. Sea Grant co-sponsored the Minnesota climate conference and is assisting communities with climate readiness assessments and land-use planning. For more information, contact me, Hilarie Sorensen, at soren360@d.umn.edu or (218) 726-7677.

By Hilarie Sorensen
December 2014

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