Study shows some WV areas resilient to climate change
A study shows high mountain areas of West Virginia would be able to adapt to climate change.
June 5, 2012 ·
Some areas of eastern West Virginia are more able to withstand climate change than others according to a study just released by The Nature Conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy used computer modeling based on geographic information data
to study 156 million acres of land to determine how climate change might affect
the mid Atlantic and northeast United
States and southeastern Canada.
Rodney Bartgis, executive director of West
Virginia’s Nature Conservancy chapter, said the study
includes the Allegheny Mountains, Eastern Panhandle and
the Southeastern part of the state.
“And the places in West Virginia that would pop out were the
places that many people are familiar with, Dolly Sods, the Cheat Mountain area,
Cranberry area the southeastern part of the Greenbrier Valley for instance,”
The study considered whether an area has characteristics
like ecological and landform variations.
“If you have a type of setting like a mid elevation
sandstone site, did you have it then on south facing slopes, west facing slopes,
north facing slopes,” Bartgis said. “And then we asked ‘where are those things
well connected so if you are on one setting you could easily get to another.'”
Bartgis said the places that will be less affected by
climate change also have a lot of intact forest cover without large breaks like
highways that would interfere with species moving around or with the ecological
process of forest development. This kind of landscape provides plants and
animals the flexibility to adapt and relocate as climate change takes place.
The Nature Conservancy plans to use the study results to set
the organizations priorities. Bartgis says there are a couple of places the
Conservancy considers more valuable to protect now that they are considered
more resilient. They are the Cacapon watershed along the Virginia-West Virginia
border and just to the west of the South Branch of the Potomac River.
“And these are not areas that we have focused on and now we
see that they have importance,” Bartgis said.
Bartgis hopes other land trust organizations and government
agencies will be able to use the study to guide preservation effort and land
management policy. Bartgis said it’s important to protect natural corridors
from development. He hopes the study can also inform policy decisions.
“For instance many of these ridges are starting to get
proposals for industrial wind turbine projects and we certainly wouldn’t want
to see all of our corridors that are important for having a future that’s
resilient to climate change also ironically damaged by attempts to come up with
renewable energy alternatives as well,” Bartgis said.