The approach emphasizes the need to support ecosystems and ecosystem services important to people by addressing the future capacity of these ecosystems to adapt to rapid climate change -- rather than by responding only to what’s vulnerable now.
Steps in the RACER assessment
1. Map important features
First, we use the best available, most current data to map land or sea features -- like mountains, wetlands, polynyas and river deltas -- that have:
- High productivity: exceptional growth of vegetation and animals
- High diversity: varieties of living things and habitats
The characteristics of these features, such as the terrain of mountains or the outflow at river mouths, act as drivers of ecological vitality.
This vitality is a source of resilience for the ecosystems and ecosystem services of the wider regions.
2. Assess resilience
Next, we test whether these key features will continue as sources of region-wide resilience, despite predicted climate-related changes to temperature, rain and snowfall, sea ice, and other environmental factors important to living systems.
The relationship between these changing climate variables and the drivers of ecological vitality is the foundation for RACER’s forecasts of ecosystem resilience to 2100.
Turning knowledge to action
RACER’s ecosystem-based method equips resource managers and conservationists with new management targets:
- Conserving the geographic, climatic, and ecological characteristics that drive ecosystem functioning
- Minimising environmental disturbance to places that are - and will be for the remainder of this century - sources of ecosystem resilience in the Arctic.
Identifying the sources of resilience for region-wide arctic ecosystems and nurturing them into the future may be the best hope for survival for the Arctic’s unique identity - including its habitats, plants, animals and the ecological services that northern people and cultures depend upon.