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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Climate-Adaptive Population Supplementation


The United States spends billions of dollars annually to supplement plant and animal populations. However, many of the strains used for this effort were cultivated decades ago and may no longer be suited to the shifting environments into which they are stocked or planted due to climate change. We must revisit the basic concept of population supplementation in the context of climate change and the diversity of climate-associated traits within species, focusing instead at the level of strain or cultivar. Climate-Adaptive Population Supplementation (CAPS) is a framework for enhancing species by matching climate-associated traits of cultivated strains with present and future environmental conditions. Our cross-taxa approach simultaneously conducts trait/environment classification, stocking/planting experimentation, and conceptual framework development for enhanced fish and tree species. In practice, we identify strain-specific climate associated traits in one trout and one oak species, characterize several Northeast environments that fit the spectrum of traits, stock/plant tagged individuals from each strain across different environments, and track the productivity and fitness of each strain over time. For example, several brook trout strains can be stocked across three lakes with different oxythermal profiles while several red oak strains can be planted across habitats with varying rainfall or drought frequency. Regular communication between project leads and partners facilitates knowledge transfer, broadened perspectives, and innovation among management spheres. Paired experimentation lays the groundwork for the co-development of a cross-taxa conceptual framework for CAPS, the basis of which will be synthesized with partners at a NECASC workshop as well as fish and forestry conferences, and published as a commentary in a policy forum. Ultimately, CAPS brings together diverse minds across management spheres toward the common goal of improved and more cost-effective population supplementation in a changing climate.