Trying to combat climate change can be daunting, but as scientists uncover the interconnectedness of the Earth’s natural system, we are beginning to understand the diverse ways society can work to ensure a thriving, productive future.


In January, the Stockholm Institute published an update to their ground breaking study, “Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet” which provides a framework for managing our planet as a unified system.


The framework, which was first released in 2009, identifies nine boundaries that should not be crossed to ensure our world’s future stability. One of the latest additions to the six-year-study is the identification of biodiversity (referred to in the paper as biosphere integrity) and climate change as core boundaries. Substantially exceeding either of these two core boundaries will potentially alter the stability of our natural world.


While this is a new area of science and questions remain about how these boundaries are best quantified and managed, the framework provides a useful way of thinking about the interrelatedness of the Earth system. Manomet learned at an early stage that it is necessary to consider climate change in an effort to preserve biodiversity. Addressing these integrated concerns requires the participation of a broad cross section of society.


Climate Services Program Leader, Eric Walberg, used the Planetary Boundaries Report to frame his discussion of climate change and Manomet’s vision for success in a recent talk at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He focused his discussion on three of the boundaries: climate change, biodiversity and land use change to illustrate how different systems interact and influence each other.


Heat Island Effect. Source: Heat Island Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:


“Land use change plays an important role in both biodiversity loss and climate regulation,” explained Walberg. “As forests are converted to urban uses, habitats are fragmented and the increase in paved surface area results in significant local and regional increases in average temperature. Strategic conservation planning can minimize these adverse impacts by identifying and protecting high-value green infrastructure.”


Walberg used Manomet’s Climate Smart Land Network (CSLN) to illustrate how forest management can be used to address multiple boundaries at once. The CLSN is a voluntary, nationwide program that assists landowners in managing their land for climate resilience and cost savings.


“We are often asked why we are working with for-profit forestry companies,” said Walberg. “We see it as a huge opportunity to improve the resiliency of North American forests. By helping large landowners better understand climate change impacts and fine-tune their management practices, we are helping landowners maximize the benefits of large forest ecosystems. This is an important step towards addressing the interrelated criteria identified in the Planetary Boundaries framework.”


Want to learn more? Listen to Eric’s full seminar here and follow along with his slideshow presentation. Still looking for more information? Eric will be presenting his work at the Plimoth Planation on April 24 and at North Hill on May 11.