World Wildlife Fund Chief Scientist emphasizes importance of dynamic conservation during presentation at CSG

CSG was fortunate to host Dr. Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist and Senior Vice President at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who presented to a small group of legislative and state agency thought leaders at our Sacramento office on the challenges to conservation posed by a changing climate and the need for flexible and dynamic tools to address these challenges.

Dynamic conservation refers to strategies designed to achieve species or habitat outcomes in adaptable ways in the context of a changing environment. Citing the combined climate impacts of slow, incremental changes in temperature punctuated by the extreme events such as drought and fire on species habitat and distributions, Rebecca described how critical areas for conservation, and the types of conservation actions that would need to be undertaken on those areas, are subject to constant change. As a result, traditional best practice conservation – namely, securing, restoring, and preserving parcels of land in perpetuity – will not by itself yield the most effective conservation outcomes over time. By identifying important habitat or ecological zones on a recurring and short-term basis, dynamic techniques allow for targeted response to a changing environment.

Rebecca explained that improved and higher quality data availability has created the possibility of dynamic conservation. Improved geospatial mapping technology has allowed WWF scientists to more clearly determine climate change stressors (e.g. rising temperatures) and, as a result, track the evolving critical habitat needs of endangered species. In addition, and from a practical perspective, dynamic programs can be far more cost-effective at ensuring positive conservation outcomes than traditional methods.

Two current examples of dynamic conservation in action were also highlighted: The Nature Conservancy (TNC) BirdReturns program and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Habitat Exchange program. TNC’s BirdReturns program aims to support migratory waterfowl along California’s Central Valley, while EDF’s Monarch Butterfly program (part of EDF’s broader Habitat Exchange program) aims to support at-risk wildlife by incentivizing private landowners to build important habitat.

In closing, Rebecca noted that dynamic conservation techniques should be considered complementary to pre-existing techniques and, like any tool, is only suitable in certain circumstances. Furthermore, she emphasized the importance of pilot projects in terms of progressing the dynamic conservation agenda with identifying or creating sources of funding as a necessary first step.

Around the world, endangered species are facing survival stressors that are unique and without precedent. Tools that allow us to adapt our strategies in response to a changing environment are critical to conservation efforts moving forward. This is the power of dynamic conservation: it recognizes the uncertainty posed by climate change and gives us the opportunity to modify our management response as necessary. As the impacts of climate change continue to create challenges for NGOs, CSG can help identify and create dynamic conservation opportunities, funding sources, and connect NGOs with top experts.

For more information on dynamic conservation, please contact Graham Chisholm ( or Sam Uden ( at 916-558-1516. To learn more about other CSG projects and services check out To stay up-to-date on major policy issues in California, sign-up for our Policy Blog emails here.

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