CCS Input on the First National Nature Assessment

This month, the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) and its Ecological Security Program (ESP) had the opportunity to comment on the Draft Prospectus for the First National Nature Assessment (NNA1) prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and is publishing its input here. The NNA1 will be completed in 2026 and will consider the state, direction, and probable future of U.S. lands, waters, wildlife, biodiversity, and ecosystems. It will identify the benefits these sources provide to society, and the risks associated with their deterioration or loss. In accomplishing these tasks, the NNA1 will quantify and characterize the state of the ecological security of the United States and its future outlook. While the United States has published a National Climate Assessment since 2000, NNA1 will be an important step in systematically assessing broader ecological security assets and risks.  

CCS broadly supports the themes and framework proposed in the draft prospectus. The themes (conservation and natural resource management, economic interests, human health and well-being, safety and security) and cross cutting areas woven throughout them (climate change, equity) all intersect with the national security of the United States and, in particular, climate and ecological security. The framework is designed to consider information from a variety of sources ranging from the peer-reviewed literature to the experiences and perspectives of local communities. This breadth, diversity, and specificity of information should make the NNA1 useful to many consumers. Furthermore, the communication of NNA1’s findings will be enhanced by additional products designed to supplement the primary report, including special peer-reviewed journals and videos relating how a diversity of communities value nature.   

While all four themes identified in the Draft Prospectus intersect with security issues, the “Safety and Security” theme is most directly relevant to CCS and ESP. In addressing this theme, NNA1 would focus on the following questions (paraphrased):

  • Question 1: What losses from natural and environmental hazards have been averted by nature (e.g., protected areas, green and blue infrastructure, restored areas) over time, and for whom? Where and how much can nature-based solutions equitably reduce future risk from these hazards?
  • Question 2: How have trends and spatial patterns in nature affected food and water security? What are opportunities for nature-based solutions to avert these emerging risks?
  • Question 3: Where might changes in nature and climate cause people within the US to migrate, and where might they go? What nature- or natural resource-related risks and opportunities are they likely to face in these new locations?

CCS comments on the theme of Safety and Security and its proposed questions:

Generally, CCS suggested that geographic coverage of the NNA1 be expanded beyond the United States and its territories to include ecosystems in close proximity to US diplomatic, scientific, and military installations and shared infrastructure abroad. Proximate ecosystems likely provide services to these installations and the communities that support them. Ecosystem loss or degradation might undermine community and installation resilience to threats such as climate change and natural disasters, undermining US national security, global operations, and deterrence. 

CCS provided the following input on each of the thematic questions:

  • Question 1: In addition to constructed, protected, or restored nature, USGCRP should also consider unprotected, but extant nature (e.g., privately owned forests or grasslands) and anthropogenic ecosystems (e.g., crop monocultures, urban vegetation) as a source of potential hazard aversion. For example, in New England, about 80% of forests are privately owned, most are not protected through any legal instrument, and many of these forests regenerated naturally, rather than being actively restored. Anthropogenic ecosystems also provide services (e.g., water infiltration, thermal regulation), even if these are reduced. 
  • Questions 1 & 2: When evaluating the potential for nature-based solutions to mitigate natural hazards and food and water insecurity, CCS recommends that USGCRP present example benefit-cost analyses that compare nature-based solutions with synthetic solutions (e.g., conserving a wetland and riparian buffers vs. constructing a waste treatment plant). Such analyses could include a comparison of different methods for valuing ecosystem services. These comparisons should help policymakers weigh the potential benefits of retaining ecosystems rather than relying on technology to replace services once they have been destroyed. 
  • Question 2: CCS recommends that USGCRP’s assessment of changes in nature which could impact food and water security include trends in environmental pollution and in biotic eruptions (e.g., introduced non-native invasive species and pests, algal blooms) that may impact both anthropogenic and natural ecosystems. Atmospheric deposition of pollutants such as nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury is often transboundary, challenging regulation. Compounding biotic eruptions may have a significant impact on water quality and food production which is not evident when considering these eruptions in isolation. 
  • Question 2: USGCRP should consider broadening its analysis to consider the impacts of changes in nature abroad on US food and water security. To the extent that the United States imports food and shares water resources with other countries, its security may be impacted by changes in nature that interrupt global supply chains or undermine food production or aquatic ecosystems abroad. 
  • Question 3: In addition to considering where changes in nature and climate might lead to human migration (both from and to), consider exploring how this migration might impact nature and its associated benefits and risks in some of the probable receiving locations (i.e., cascading impacts and feedback loops). If mismanaged, the necessary expansion of services, housing, and infrastructure could eliminate important ecosystem services while leaving migrants vulnerable to future natural disasters (e.g., building in future flood plains and on existing wetlands).  


The First National Nature Assessment is an important step in America’s growing effort to quantify the state, trajectory, and benefits of our nature. The inclusion of climate and ecological security considerations in this assessment is vital for national security and is complementary with its other themes (conservation and natural resource management, economic interests, human health and well-being) and cross-cutting areas (climate change, equity).