Perhaps no subject is more intriguing and complex than climate change and its effects on ecosystems and their biological communities. Changes in precipitation and snowmelt patterns, sea level rise, increased intensity of storms and wet-weather events, thawing permafrost, changes in vegetation and wildlife composition and distribution, and other effects present significant policy and land management challenges. Scientific modeling and analyses demonstrate that the effects of a changing climate are complex, with high variability over time, space, and species, including effects on benthic organisms. The variable effects of a changing climate complicate decision making, rendering scenario planning, adaptive management, and other management learning tools increasingly important. The very complexity of effects presents particularly difficult challenges for policy makers and resource managers because the available science often is highly uncertain. Thus, other decision support tools are needed to help managers anticipate and respond to local and regional conditions. Effective policy and management require relevant science to inform decision making. Key needs include more assessments of ecosystem and species trends and their possible linkage to climate change and a better understanding of the interplay of multiple variables, how different management regimes might affect ecosystems and species survival, and how to apply risk management tools and adaptive management to resource issues.
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