How Wildlife Refuges Are Helping to Combat Climate Change
Wildlife refuges preserve the natural habitats of many endangered species. They also provide a place for migratory birds and other animals to rest, recover and grow. Refuges are working to conserve wildlife and their habitats by mitigating the harmful effects of climate change. They also contribute to a cleaner environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and improving water quality.
Protecting Water Resources
Across the country, wildlife refuges are working to combat climate change by protecting water resources. They are doing this by reducing floods and erosion, controlling wildfires, and improving water quality in rivers, streams, and wetlands that feed into communities’ drinking water supply. The refuges also manage water for birds, lowering some wetlands’ water levels and raising others to provide an adequate water supply even in drought. This helps water-dependent ducks and geese survive if their nesting grounds dry up or predators threaten them. Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge help address extinction crises by conserving endangered species, such as bald eagles and whooping cranes, that once lived on these lands but now are at risk of extinction. By expanding the refuge system and providing habitats for more native species, we can ensure a healthy future for America’s wildlife.
Preserving habitat is essential to protecting wildlife and maintaining the integrity of natural ecosystems. It can be done through several methods. In-situ conservation preserves species in their native environments and supports the survival of their populations. On the other hand, ex-situ conservation takes a different approach by maintaining endangered species in a synthetic environment that mimics their wild counterparts. About one-third of all threatened or endangered species live in national forests. However, logging, mining, recreational activity, and climate change threaten these habitats.
Wildlife corridors link habitats, connecting animals from different areas in the landscape. They are vital to allowing animals to migrate between places where they can find food, water, shelter, and a place to breed. Corridors often require collaboration between a wide range of groups working in partnership. They may span tens or hundreds of kilometers across multiple landscape types and jurisdictions, including state and federal lands. One of the biggest challenges with creating wildlife corridors is ensuring they are designed for suitable animal species. Many species avoid being near busy roads or other areas with a high human population.
Wildlife refuges generate jobs through various activities, such as managing timber and forest products, restoration and sustainable management of wetlands, and educating the public about the importance of conservation. Additionally, some sanctuaries employ trained wildlife rehabilitation staff to help injured animals recover. In addition, national wildlife refuges serve as essential travel destinations for many people, generating millions of dollars in recreational spending in local economies. Visitors to wildlife refuges often enjoy hikes, paddling, wildlife viewing, and nature photography or participate in heritage sports like hunting and fishing.
Educating the Public
National wildlife refuges are an excellent source of education about nature, attracting millions of visitors each year. From educational displays of dinosaur fossils to Civil War artifacts, refuges are where people can learn about their country’s history and connect with nature. National wildlife refuges are also an excellent place to teach about climate change and how it affects our natural environment. For example, plants in wildlife refuges absorb carbon dioxide and purify the air we breathe. They also help to filter pollutants and excess nutrients from water before it reaches our drinking water.