We Are The Change!
The validity of climate change is no longer up for debate. Our climate is undoubtedly changing, and there is no shortage of detrimental effects promised by this phenomenon. As stewards of the land, land trusts are uniquely predisposed to combat this emerging crisis. With the effects of climate change already beginning to manifest, it is now more important than ever that we take measures to mitigate and adapt to our changing climate. Read on to see what ACLT is doing to address climate change.
Although climate change has become an inescapable reality, efforts to mitigate its effects are not in vain. Mitigation is necessary for reducing the harm promised by a changing climate, and ACLT aids these efforts in the following ways:
Preserving essential habitats: Climate change threatens all species of the earth, but species that exist in fragmented habitats are especially vulnerable to these threats. At ACLT, we strive to strengthen the resilience of the region’s species by preserving contiguous plots of land throughout the Parkers Creek and Governor’s Run watersheds. Currently, ACLT has preserved over 3,500 acres of land, all of which offer critical habitat to native species and comprise the largest wildlife hub in Calvert County. Not only is ACLT’s protected land the largest wildlife hub in the county, but it is also the only tier 1 BioNet area. As defined by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, tier 1 BioNet areas are “critically significant for biodiversity conservation.” For future land preservation efforts, ACLT seeks to identify corridors to other potential wildlife hubs in order to expand contiguous protected land and strengthen the climate resilience of the region.
Maximizing carbon sequestration and storage: Of ACLT’s 3,500+ preserved acres, over 3,000 acres are permanently protected forests, replete with diverse species and immense carbon storage and sequestration capacities. With the help of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, we know that these forests store roughly 320,000 tons of carbon and remove an additional 18,000 tons of atmospheric carbon each year. ACLT staff and volunteers regularly monitor and manage these forests to ensure that they reach Old Growth Forest status in order to maximize their carbon-removing capabilities. Furthermore, the permanent protection of these lands has prevented the emissions that would accompany not only likely deforestation for development, but also the process of development itself as well as the myriad energy inputs required to sustain a developed area.
Reducing our emissions: ACLT operates with relatively minimal greenhouse gas emissions, yet we believe every small effort to reduce emissions is necessary to effectively address climate change. To reduce our own carbon footprint, we have begun to utilize cleaner energy sources in the form of solar panels and battery-operated power tools. Double Oak Farm recently acquired a solar panel, which powers the electric fence that contains the one-acre regenerative farm. Similarly, a battery-operated weed whacker, lawn mower, and chainsaw were introduced into the regular gas power tool rotation as of recent. ACLT has aspirations to expand our electric power tool inventory, as well as implement more solar panels in the near future.
Climate change is already underway, and ACLT feels its effects: extreme weather events are worsening, native species are becoming threatened, invasive species are thriving, the list goes on. These current impacts–along with those that the future holds–necessitate adaptation to maintain our conservation goals. ACLT is pursuing several adaptive strategies to address climate change:
Providing green infrastructure: With climate change bringing about more intense weather events, we see increased stormwater runoff from urban areas. Higher levels of runoff carry more pollutants to our waterways and threaten the health of species inhabiting them, similarly decreasing the quality of ecosystem services derived from healthy water. Green infrastructure is a means for deterring this polluted runoff, and it can be implemented on different scales and in various ways. On a small scale, green infrastructure might look like rain barrels or rain gardens, serving to collect and drain rainwater at the individual level. ACLT implements green infrastructure on the landscape level via land preservation. By protecting land around the Prince Frederick town center, we effectively filter rainwater runoff before it reaches the Bay, reducing the amount of pollution that reaches the water.
Planting native buffers: Planting native buffers is an important adaptation to climate change for several reasons. For one, it restores plants that climate change has threatened in some way, returning the livelihood of essential pollinators. Furthermore, planting buffers provides protection against erosion, a phenomenon often worsened by the intense weather events that accompany climate change. ACLT seeks to combat these effects by conducting yearly native buffer plantings on one of our most topographically-vulnerable properties.
Removing invasive species: Climate change has exacerbated the presence of invasive species on ACLT-owned and managed lands, threatening the ability of key native species to thrive. To combat this issue, ACLT staff and volunteers engage in regular invasive species removal. Recently, these efforts have been directed toward the invasive wavyleaf basket grass (left), which has established a relatively widespread presence in the past few years, as well as invasive vines and phragmites which continue to burden native species.
Forming local partnerships: Because climate change is blind to man-made boundaries, effective adaptation requires collaboration that transcends county lines. For this reason, ACLT launched the Southern Maryland Conservation Alliance (SMCA) in an attempt to coordinate, and consequently fortify, regional conservation efforts against climate change. The alliance is comprised of local land trusts and non-government environmental organizations, as well as government agencies and historical societies operating within the five-county Southern Maryland region. Read more about the mission and goals of SMCA here. tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.
Farming sustainably: Conventional farming tends to be destructive to the environment, lending to landscape degradation and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. By utilizing sustainable methods of farming, we will not only decrease agriculture’s contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gasses, but also increase the resilience of our food system against our changing climate. ACLT partakes in the sustainable agriculture movement by running a one-acre regenerative farm, from which we donate 80% of harvests to the local food pantry. Some sustainable practices used on the farm include the incorporation of on-site compost, the use of organic pesticides and herbicides, the regular planting of cover crops, as well as various other regenerative techniques.