Characterizing Uncertainty in Climate Projections to Support Regional Decision-Making

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from September 1, 2016 - September 1, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Renee McPherson, University of Oklahoma (OU)

About:

Global Climate Models (GCMs) use our understanding of atmospheric physics and other earth processes to simulate potential future changes in climate on a global scale. However, these large scale models are not fit for predicting smaller scale, local changes. Downscaling methods can be applied to the outputs of GCMs to give guidance appropriate for a more regional level. No standard approach to downscaling currently exists, however, and the process often results in climate projections that suggest a wide array of possible futures. It is critical that decision-makers looking to incorporate climate information understand the uncertainties associated with different downscaling approaches and can evaluate downscaled data to determine which datasets are appropriate for addressing their questions.

The goal of this project is to provide decision-makers with this information by evaluating the uncertainties associated with different downscaled datasets. Materials will then be developed to communicate these uncertainties to managers and explore how they can be incorporated into risk decision-making. The results will enable managers across the country to better understand possible climate futures in their jurisdictions, allowing them to make more informed planning decisions in the face of uncertainty.

Building a Decision-Support Tool for Assessing the Impacts of Climate and Land Use Change on Ecological Processes

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from September 1, 2016 - September 1, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Terry Sohl, USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center

Cooperators & Partners:

Rob Quenzer, Steve Wika, Kristi Sayler & Ryan Reker (USGS EROS)

About:

Scientists, planners, policy makers and other decision-makers in the South Central U.S. want to understand the potential impacts of changes in climate, precipitation, and land-use patterns on natural and cultural resources. Though the potential impacts of climate change can be modeled to help decision-makers plan for future conditions, these models rarely incorporate changes in land-use that may occur. Climate change and land-use change are often linked, as shifts in precipitation and temperature can alter patterns in human land-use activities, such as agriculture.

This project seeks to address this gap by developing new software tools that enable stakeholders to quickly develop custom, climate-sensitive land-use projections to satisfy a range of application needs. Stakeholders from across the region will participate in the development of the model through two workshops, designed to first gather stakeholder needs and then to apply and evaluate the model to ensure that it maximizes potential use across all stakeholder groups.

Users of the end-product will be able to build customized, scenario-based projections of landscape change, including landscape response to climate change, such as wildfires or altered vegetation patterns. The projections generated with these tools will enable decision-makers and land-use planners to visualize potential future landscapes, optimize land management practices, and adapt to negative impacts of climate and land-use change on ecological and economic systems.

Building a Decision-Support Tool for Assessing the Impacts of Climate and Land Use Change on Ecological Processes

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Terry Sohl, USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS)

Cooperators & Partners:

Rob Quenzer, Steve Wika, Kristi Sayler & Ryan Reker (USGS EROS)

About:

Scientists, planners, policy makers and other decision-makers in the South Central U.S. want to understand the potential impacts of changes in climate, precipitation, and land-use patterns on natural and cultural resources. Though the potential impacts of climate change can be modeled to help decision-makers plan for future conditions, these models rarely incorporate changes in land-use that may occur. Climate change and land-use change are often linked, as shifts in precipitation and temperature can alter patterns in human land-use activities, such as agriculture.

This project seeks to address this gap by developing new software tools that enable stakeholders to quickly develop custom, climate-sensitive land-use projections to satisfy a range of application needs. Stakeholders from across the region will participate in the development of the model through two workshops, designed to first gather stakeholder needs and then to apply and evaluate the model to ensure that it maximizes potential use across all stakeholder groups.

Users of the end-product will be able to build customized, scenario-based projections of landscape change, including landscape response to climate change, such as wildfires or altered vegetation patterns. The projections generated with these tools will enable decision-makers and land-use planners to visualize potential future landscapes, optimize land management practices, and adapt to negative impacts of climate and land-use change on ecological and economic systems.

Characterizing Uncertainties in Climate Projections to Support Regional Decision-Making

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Renee McPherson, University of Oklahoma (OU)

About:

Global Climate Models (GCMs) use our understanding of atmospheric physics and other earth processes to simulate potential future changes in climate on a global scale. However, these large scale models are not fit for predicting smaller scale, local changes. Downscaling methods can be applied to the outputs of GCMs to give guidance appropriate for a more regional level. No standard approach to downscaling currently exists, however, and the process often results in climate projections that suggest a wide array of possible futures. It is critical that decision-makers looking to incorporate climate information understand the uncertainties associated with different downscaling approaches and can evaluate downscaled data to determine which datasets are appropriate for addressing their questions.

The goal of this project is to provide decision-makers with this information by evaluating the uncertainties associated with different downscaled datasets. Materials will then be developed to communicate these uncertainties to managers and explore how they can be incorporated into risk decision-making. The results will enable managers across the country to better understand possible climate futures in their jurisdictions, allowing them to make more informed planning decisions in the face of uncertainty.

Developing Tools for Improved Water Supply Forecasting in the Rio Grande Headwaters

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

David Clow, USGS Colorado Water Science Center

Cooperators & Partners:

Colin Penn & Graham Sexston (USGS Colorado Water Science Center) 

About:

The Rio Grande River is a critical source of freshwater for 13 million people in Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. More than half of the Rio Grande’s streamflow originates as snowmelt in Colorado’s mountains, meaning that changes in the amount of snowmelt can impact the water supply for communities along the entire river. Snowmelt runoff is therefore an important component of water supply outlooks for the region, which are used by a variety of stakeholders to anticipate water availability in the springtime.

It is critical that these water supply outlooks be as accurate as possible. Errors can cost states millions of dollars due to mis-allocation of water and lost agricultural productivity. There is a perception that runoff forecast accuracy has declined over the last several decades in Colorado and New Mexico, making water supply outlooks less reliable. Declines in accuracy could be related to changes in climate and land cover; however, potential sources of error have not yet been examined in the upper Rio Grande basin.
This study aims to improve runoff forecast models for the upper Rio Grande. Researchers will identify potential sources of error in existing models, improve the representation of snowpack in models of the watershed, develop a new hydrologic model for the basin, and test this model’s ability to forecast runoff. The end product of this study will be a tool for making improved runoff forecasts for the upper Rio Grande basin. The tool will be transferable to other snowmelt-dominated basins in the region that have similar characteristics. These improved runoff forecasts, in turn, can be used to develop more accurate water supply outlooks in the region, empowering stakeholders in the basin to plan their water use more effectively.

Enhancing the Capacity of Coastal Wetlands to Adapt to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Development

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Michael Osland, USGS National Wetlands Research Center

Cooperators & Partners:

Nicholas Enwright (USGS National Wetlands Research Center) 

About:

Coastal wetlands provide a suite of valuable benefits to people and wildlife, including important habitat, improved water quality, reduced flooding impacts, and protected coastlines. However, in the 21st century accelerated sea-level rise and coastal development are expected to greatly alter coastal landscapes across the globe. The future of coastal wetlands is uncertain, challenging coastal environmental managers to develop conservation strategies that will increase the resilience of these valuable ecosystems to change and preserve the benefits they provide.

One strategy for preparing for the effects of sea-level rise is to ensure that there is space available for coastal wetlands to adapt by migration. In a recent study, researchers identified areas where coastal wetlands may move inland along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, one of the most wetland-rich and sea-level rise sensitive regions of the world. Building on these findings, this project will produce customized landscape conservation-design products focused on identifying landward migration routes for coastal wetlands. The resulting products will provide environmental managers with information to make decisions to enhance the capacity of coastal wetlands to adapt to sea-level rise and coastal development, protecting these ecosystems and the critical economic and ecological benefits that they provide.

Identifying Best Agricultural Management Practices for Maintaining Soil Health and Sustainability Under Changing Climate Conditions

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

John Zak, Texas Tech University (TTU)

Cooperators & Partners:

Veronica Acosta Martinez (USGS, USDA)

Bobbie McMichael (TTU)

About:

The role of soil temperature in agricultural health is largely understudied, but recent research suggests that it can affect soil health in important ways. Researchers at Texas Tech University found that lower daily temperature ranges of soil in the Southern High Plains were associated with higher levels of soil microbes (which help make critical nutrients available for plants) and decreased nitrogen availability. These results suggest that climate variability may have implications for soil health and microbial content. In the South Central U.S., a more developed understanding of how management practices, climate variability, and soil health interact is essential for sound agricultural decision-making.

This project will implement demonstration fields in which various sustainable management practices can be tested and their impacts on soil temperature and health can be monitored. The demonstration fields will focus on cotton production and will test management practices related to water use efficiency, carbon storage, and soil health. In addition to demonstrating the effects of various management practices, these plots will help to determine how much variability cotton production systems can tolerate before ecosystems and the services they provide are negatively affected.

This demonstration system is in high demand amongst regional stakeholders and will be implemented with the support of the South‐Central USDA Climate Hub, NRCS scientists, and Cotton Inc. It will contribute substantially to our collective understanding of the interactions between climate variability, soil health, and agricultural productivity in the Southern High Plains while equipping stakeholders with the knowledge they need to make appropriate management decisions for optimal agroecosystem health.

Identifying Conservation Objectives for the Gulf Coast Habitats of the Black Skimmer and Gull-billed Tern

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Jointly funded by the South Central Climate Science Center and the Southeast Climate Science Center

Principal Investigators:

James Cronin, USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center

About:

Many shorebirds and nearshore waterbirds are of conservation concern across the Gulf of Mexico due to stressors such as human disturbance, predation, and habitat loss and degradation. Conservation and protection of these birds is important for the functioning of healthy ecosystems and for maintaining biodiversity in North America. Consequently, resource managers along the gulf need decision-aiding tools that can efficiently help to answer important conservation questions for different species (e.g. which areas and how much area should be targeted by management actions to meet a particular species’ needs).

To address this need, project researchers are developing statistical models that will help identify habitat conservation objectives and actions for bird species taking into account different gulf coast conservation scenarios that might occur in response to sea-level rise. The project will focus specifically on the Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) and Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), two species identified as representative of sustainable gulf habitats and designated as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species of Conservation Concern and Gulf Coast Joint Venture Priority Species. These two birds are also representative of a variety of other beach and barrier-island nesting birds whose nesting habitats are threatened by sea-level rise (e.g., Least Tern, Snowy and Wilson’s Plover). The statistical models will link each bird’s population abundance to habitat characteristics that could be influenced by different management actions and will use this information to identify conservation objectives under different conservation scenarios.

Improving Predictions of Water Supply in the Rio Grande under Changing Climate Conditions

Funding Amount and Duration:

$92,915 from April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

David Gutzler, University of New Mexico (UNM)

About:

On its southbound course from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande provides water resources for more than 13 million people. The quantity of water flowing into the northern section of the river depends on how much snowpack from the Rocky Mountains melts into runoff and on seasonal precipitation rates. Models describing the relationship between winter snowpack quantity and springtime snowmelt runoff quantities for the basin are combined with models describing long-term natural variation in precipitation to create water supply outlooks. The outlooks developed by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service are currently used by stakeholders to make critical water allocation decisions in the basin. Improvements to water supply outlooks could be worth millions of dollars associated with better water allocation strategies.

In order to ensure that these outlooks are as accurate as possible for water management planning, there is a need to better understand how snowpack and snowmelt runoff are related to each other and how both may be influenced by large climatic variation such as El Niño and global climate change. To address this need, this project will combine historical data and climate model projections to develop enhanced prediction models relating winter snowpack to subsequent snowmelt runoff in the upper Rio Grande.
The results of this research will identify changes to streamflow predictability over the past several decades (a period of rapid observed warming), and assess future predictability. This work will also help to inform the development of more reliable water supply outlooks essential for planning purposes in the Rio Grande Basin, such as reservoir management and irrigated agriculture.

Improving the Management and Coordination of Water Resources in the Rio Grande Basin

Funding Amount and Duration:

$303,521 from October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Jack Friedman, University of Oklahoma (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

Jennifer Koch & Jadwiga Ziolkowska, University of Oklahoma

About:

Understanding how to manage scarce water during drought is one of the great challenges we face as a society, particularly for communities in the Rio Grande Basin. Severe drought coupled with human development have profoundly impacted the quantity and quality of water in the basin. Running through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, the Rio Grande is a multi-national resource that is managed by many different state, federal, and local authorities and used by diverse stakeholders. Developing the basin-wide responses necessary for drought resilience throughout the Basin can be challenging in such a complex management context.

This project seeks to understand how different human and environmental factors affect ten sections of the Rio Grande in order to identify how management strategies and human uses of the river can be better coordinated. The end product will be a tool allowing stakeholders to examine the costs and benefits of their decisions for themselves and for upstream and downstream users. Overall, the results of this research will help stakeholders improve drought resilience and facilitate the sustainable use of water resources throughout the Basin.

Assessing the State of River Science, Water Resources Management Policies, and Water Resources Planning Tools for the Rio Grande / Rio Bravo

Funding Amount and Duration:

$72,622 from October 1, 2015 - December 31, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Phaedra Budy, Utah State University (USU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • John Schmidt & Sarah Null, Utah State University
  • Samuel Sandoval Solis, UC Davis

About:

This project will assemble, review, and synthesize the scientific body of research and monitoring studies relevant to the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo (RGB) watershed, focusing on studies that concern stream flow, ground water, geomorphology, aquatic ecology, riparian ecology, and human interactions with river ecosystems. This project will also assemble, review, and synthesize available water resource models applicable to the RGB that evaluate trade-offs in meeting goals for human water demands and ecosystem recovery. These reports will be developed and made available to attendees of a planned Rio Grande Forum scheduled for November 2016. Additionally, a Water Scenario Planning Exercise will be developed and made available for use in the Forum.

Regional Graduate Student and Early Career Researcher Training II

Funding Amount and Duration:

$58,917 from October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Derek Rosendahl, South Central Climate Science Center

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Aparna Bamzai (Co-PI), University of Oklahoma, South Central CSC
  • Renee McPherson (Co-PI), University of Oklahoma, South Central CSC
  • John Zak, Texas Tech University
  • Kristine DeLong, Louisiana State University
  • Keith Dixon, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab
  • Victor H. Rivera-Monroy, Lousiana State University
  • April Taylor, Chickasaw Nation, South Central CSC
  • Duncan Wilson, Oklahoma State University
  • Graduate students and post docs from across the consortium collaborated on training development. 

About:

Investigating the complex natural and cultural resource management challenges we face today requires building diverse, interdisciplinary research teams. Robust stakeholder engagement is also critical for ensuring that publicly funded science answers questions that are relevant to natural and cultural resource management decisions. Early career scientists who learn how to engage with multi-disciplinary research teams and stakeholders in the early stages of their career have a competitive advantage in the workforce and can help develop actionable science that addresses critical management questions.

This project builds upon the successes of the 2014 Early Career Training to develop a week-long professional development training for graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and early-career environmental professionals within the South Central Climate Science Center (SC CSC) region. The training will provide a foundation for working in today’s interdisciplinary, stakeholder-driven research contexts and remove institutional barriers at an influential time of development for participants. Participants will be encouraged to continue networking across the SC CSC through their research pathways and be leaders in outcome-oriented, interdisciplinary research that addresses stakeholder-driven research questions.

Informing Hydrologic Planning in the Red River Valley Through Improved Regional Climate Projections

Funding Amount and Duration:

$62,698 from September 26, 2015 - September 25, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Ming Xue, Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms (CAPS), University of Oklahoma

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Douglas Lilly (Co-PI) & David Williams (Co-PI), U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • Xiaoming Hu (Co-PI) & Renee McPherson, University of Oklahoma

About:

Across the Southern Great Plains, increasing temperatures are expected to alter the hydrological functioning of the region by contributing to severe droughts, more intense rainfall events, and more severe flooding episodes. These changes could adversely affect human and ecological communities. The ability to better predict future changes in precipitation and the response of hydrologic systems in the region could help mitigate their negative impacts. Yet while today’s global climate models provide large-scale projections of future temperature and precipitation patterns that can be broadly useful for large-scale water resource planning, they are often not appropriate for use at a smaller, more local scale.

This research will develop high-resolution climate projections for the Southern Great Plains that are better suited to informing water management at the local scale, with a focus on the Red River Valley. High resolution weather models will be used to downscale global climate model forecasts to provide more accurate local projections of future climate conditions for the Valley. These models will be run multiple times, creating a spread of model outcomes that will provide insight into the range of possible climate futures for the region and reveal any uncertainties managers should be aware of when using the projections. The very high-resolution projections will be used in the context of long-term hydrological modeling and management to inform cost-effective flood control planning, water supply management, hydroelectric power generation, and ecosystem conservation.

Quantifying Future Precipitation in the South Central U.S. for Water Resources Planning

Funding Amount and Duration:

$62,698 from September 26, 2015 - September 25, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Jung-Hee Ryu, Texas Tech University (TTU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Katharine Hayhoe & Sharmistha Swain, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University
  • Barry Keim, Kevin Robbins, Luigi Romolo & Amanda Lewis, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program
  • Southern Regional Climate Center, Louisiana State University

About:

The South Central U.S. is home to diverse climates and ecosystems, strong agricultural and energy sectors, and fast-growing urban areas. All share a critical need for water, which is becoming an increasingly scarce resource across the region as aquifers are overdrawn and populations grow. Understanding what brings rain to this region, and how the timing and amount of precipitation may be affected by climate change, is essential for effective water planning and management, yet community planners and managers have indicated that currently available precipitation forecasts for the South Central are insufficient, due largely to the high levels of uncertainty associated with precipitation projections for the region.

This project aims to improve scientific understanding of the local and large-scale atmospheric processes that bring moisture to the region and drive precipitation. The project will analyze long-term historical weather station records and atmospheric dynamics, improving our ability to interpret global climate model simulations and apply them to regional management questions. Researchers will project future changes in seasonal rainfall and drought risk to assist water resources planning and preparedness efforts.

Lessons learned from this work will be used to inform long-term projections for our region, making complex climate information and analyses more approachable, understandable, and actionable for regional policy-makers, planners, and managers.

Empowering Fire Professionals to Manage Changing Fire Regimes

Funding Amount and Duration:

$112,558 from September 23, 2015 - March 23, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Mark Shafer, Oklahoma Climatological Survey

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Brian Hays, Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources
  • Amy Hays, Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources
  • John Weir, Oklahoma State University, Natural Resource Ecology and Management

About:

Fire is a natural and necessary component of the South Central Plains ecosystem. However, fire suppression and more frequent droughts in the region have resulted in a build-up of dry fuels loads such as dead wood, resulting in fires that burn hotter and impact the landscape more severely. Uncontrolled wildfires have cost the region several billion dollars in the past five years. Further, fire suppression has resulted in substantial losses in native plant biodiversity and wildlife habitat, which also has costly implications. In Oklahoma alone, it’s estimated that $157 million will be required to restore rangelands to their native conditions. Of further concern is the fact that projected changes in climate indicate that the region will continue to experience hotter and drier conditions, meaning that fire risks will continue to increase unless proper management strategies, such as prescribed fire, are implemented.

In order to develop effective fire management responses, ongoing research into the changing scope and intensity of fire regimes in the region needs to be better connected to management practitioners and their expertise.This project will help managers respond to changing fire regimes by analyzing historical climate observations and future projections to identify days which are suitable for prescribed burns as well as days of high wildfire potential. Results from the analysis will be presented and discussed at a fire summit convening leading researchers, agencies, and land owners. The summit will also bring together fire experts to discuss the safe and proper application of fire in a changing and variable climate, along with management strategies for fire and its role in combating invasive plant species, maintaining productive landscapes, and enhancing wildlife habitat.

Soil Moisture-Based Drought Monitoring for the South Central Region

Funding Amount and Duration:

$45,857 from September 23, 2015 - September 22, 2018

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Tyson Ochsner, Oklahoma State University (OSU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Jessica Lucido, USGS Center for Integrated Data Analytics (USGS-CIDA)
  • Chad McNutt, National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Program Office, NOAA
  • James Verdin, NIDIS Program Office, USGS
  • Mark Shafer, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP), University of Oklahoma.

About:

Soil moisture is a critical variable for understanding the impacts of drought on ecological, hydrological, and agricultural systems. Yet, key research gaps currently prevent existing soil moisture measurements from being used to assess drought conditions and mitigate drought impacts such as wildfire outbreaks, lost agricultural production, and degraded wildlife habitat. In fact, most scales used to characterize the severity of drought, known as “drought indices”, don’t include soil moisture measurements, relying instead on atmospheric data. Current barriers to the incorporation of soil moisture data include a lack of consensus regarding how to best construct soil moisture-based drought indices, the challenges associated with integrating existing soil moisture data collected from diverse networks, and a lack of guidelines on how to apply these indices to different crop types.

The objective of this project is to build the necessary scientific foundation for soil moisture-based drought monitoring in the South Central region and beyond. This project will produce effective soil moisture-based drought indices that decision-makers can use retrospectively or in real-time with data from existing monitoring networks to assess drought severity in the South Central region or across the US. Researchers will also create the first regional soil moisture database for the South Central US, which will further support drought monitoring and other climate-related research efforts in this drought-prone region. This improved monitoring capability will facilitate early detection and the implementation of adaptive management strategies, which research has shown are key to reducing the economic and ecological impacts of drought.

Climate Training for Native Tribes of Louisiana and New Mexico

Funding Amount and Duration:

$86,180 from August 15, 2015 - August 14, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Kristine DeLong, Louisiana State University (LSU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Barry Keim & Hal Needham, Louisiana State University and SCIPP
  • Kevin Robbins, Louisiana State University & SRCC
  • April Taylor, South Central CSC
  • Boyd Nystedt & Margaret Chavez, ENIPC Office of Environmental Technical Assistance
  • Linda Langley, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana
  • Wanda Janes & Steve Terry, United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.
  • John Tirpac, Gulf Coast Plains and Ozarks LCC
  • Bill Bartush, Gulf Coast Prairie LCC
  • Robert Doudrick & Jeff Williams, Southern Research Station, US Dept. of Agriculture

About:

Tribal nations are one of the most vulnerable populations to climate change in the United States, because of their reliance upon the natural environment to sustain traditional ways of life and current lack of training and resources to respond to climate change impacts. This project seeks to increase south-central U.S. tribes’ basic knowledge of climate science, connect them with tools to assess their communities’ vulnerabilities, and build their skills to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. Researchers will conduct multiple two-day climate training sessions for Native American tribes in Louisiana and New Mexico. The trainings will emphasize regionally specific scientific and social scientific aspects of climate change that are relevant to the tribal nations’ land management and planning decisions. By participating in these training sessions, participants will gain knowledge that will help them better manage their resources in the context of a changing climate.

Online Climate Change Impacts Course

Funding Amount and Duration:

$144,132 from August 15, 2015 - January 30, 2018

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Aparna Bamzai, South Central Climate Science Center

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Renee McPherson (Co-PI), OU
  • Jeff Muehring (Co-PI), NextThought
  • Jean Ann Bowman, TAMU
  • A range of collaborators from the SC CSC consortium, USGS and DOI partners, and associated Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs)

About:

Most resource managers need to take climate impacts into account when making decisions during the course of their career, whether their work protects native species populations, reduces the impact of extreme storms on infrastructure, or improves water quality in a watershed. Professional training that develops an understanding of the climate system, how it is changing, and what that means for various natural and cultural resources can help improve long-term management outcomes. However, not all agencies or organizations have the capacity to provide this important training, limiting the ability of managers to interpret complex climate data and address climate-related questions.

Therefore, this project developed an online, interactive course titled “Managing for a Changing Climate.” The course is free and available worldwide for anyone with an internet connection through the Janux platform. Course content and assignments provide students with an integrative understanding of the climate system, the role of natural variability in the climate system, external drivers of climate change, and the implications of climactic shifts for natural and cultural resources. Resources managers, tribal environmental professionals, staff and students at other Climate Science Centers and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and members of the general public can participate freely.

Material for this course was developed in partnership with NextThought LLC, NASA through the Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium, and the University of Oklahoma College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences. The course is also offered as a 3-credit upper division undergraduate course in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability at the University of Oklahoma.

Examining Soil and Drought Dynamics to Improve Fire Forecasting in the southern Great Plains

Funding Amount and Duration:

$154,078 from September 7, 2014 - September 6, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

John Zak, Texas Tech University (TTU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Natasja van Gestel, TTU
  • Renee McPherson, University of Oklahoma
  • Todd Lindley, Brad Illston, Oklahoma Climatological Survey
  • Cotton Incorporated

About:

The need to improve fire weather predictions for the southern Great Plains has grown in recent years, following a number of extreme fire events. While on-the-ground conditions that promote fire development in the region are still not well understood, research suggests that fire-friendly conditions are determined by more than just precipitation amounts or wind speeds. They are also influenced by soil characteristics such as moisture content, temperature, and human use. Therefore, fire weather forecast predictions could be improved by developing a better understanding of the relationship between soil characteristics and fire occurrence.

With a hotter and drier future unfolding in the southern Great Plains, the time is now to consider how soil moisture dynamics are expected to change and what influence, if any, this will have on fire potential. This project will fine-tune fire weather forecast predictions using soil temperature and soil moisture for a variety of managed and unmanaged systems in West Texas and Oklahoma. Accounting for these conditions will improve our understanding of what regions and time periods are and will be favorable to fire conditions. This information will give managers a more complete picture of fire risk, thus helping to inform fire prevention, crop production, and conservation decisions across the region.

Developing Effective Drought Monitoring Tools for Farmers and Ranchers in the South Central U.S.

Funding Amount and Duration:

$184,945 from September 2, 2014 - September 1, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Mark Shafer, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Steven Quiring, Texas A&M University
  • Chad McNutt, National Integrated Drought Information System
  • Brian Fuchs, National Drought Mitigation Center

About:

The South Central U.S. is one of the main agricultural regions in North America: annual agricultural production is valued at more than $44 billion dollars. However, as climate conditions change, the region is experiencing more frequent and severe droughts, with significant impacts on agriculture and broader consequences for land management. For example, in 2011 drought caused an estimated $7.6 billion in agricultural losses in Texas and an additional $1.6 billion in Oklahoma. Although there are many drought monitoring tools available, most of these tools were developed without input from the stakeholders, such as farmers and ranchers, who are intended to use them.

The goal of this project is to assess the information needs of farmers, ranchers, and local land managers in the South Central region and to develop drought monitoring tools that are effective and responsive to their needs. The results of this project will be directly and immediately applicable to land management decisions in the region. Further, this approach to improving drought monitoring could be applied to other regions of the country facing similar challenges. Finally, in addition to advancing our knowledge of how drought information is used, this project will also contribute to our understanding of how private land owners and agronomists make decisions related to landscape-scale change.

Community Resilience to Drought Hazard: An Analysis of Drought Exposure, Impacts, and Adaptation in the South Central U.S.

Funding Amount and Duration:

$254,485 from August 12, 2014 - August 11, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Nina Lam – Louisiana State University (LSU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Margaret Reams, LSU
  • Robert Rohli, LSU

About:

The threat of droughts and their associated impacts on the landscape and human communities has long been recognized in the United States, especially in high risk areas such as the South Central region. There is ample literature on the effects of long-term climate change and short-term climate variability on the occurrence of droughts. However, it is unclear whether this information meets the needs of relevant stakeholders and actually contributes to reducing the vulnerability or increasing the resilience of communities to droughts. For example, are the methods used to characterize the severity of drought – known as drought indices – effective tools for predicting the actual damage felt by communities?

As droughts continue to increase in frequency and severity, the need to understand community vulnerability and resilience to drought is only growing. Focusing on New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, this study sought to answer several key questions. First, researchers examined whether existing drought indices are effective in predicting the occurrence of drought events and their actual damages. Second, researchers explored why some communities suffer less damage from drought and recover faster than others. Finally, researchers identified strategies for encouraging the adoption of water conservation behaviors among residents. So far, results show that drought indices are overall useful tools for predicting drought damage and that a community’s resilience to drought is often tied to socioeconomic conditions.

This research was conducted in partnership with two Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. In addition to gaining the scientific knowledge of the linkages between drought indices, damages, and community resilience, this research (1) developed tools to measure drought resilience, (2) identified key indicators of resilience, (3) identified the gaps between drought indices and actual damages, and (4) identified the factors that influence residents’ decisions to adopt adaptive measures.

Identifying Tribal Vulnerabilities and Supporting Planning for Extreme Weather Events

Funding Amount and Duration:

$21,466 from August 1, 2014 - July 31, 2015

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Dawn Jourdan, University of Oklahoma (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center (HRRC) at Texas A&M University
  • Chickasaw Nation

About:

Climate change is poised to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events – such as tornadoes, flooding, drought, and snowstorms – which may damage buildings and other structures, cause economic hardship, disrupt plant and wildlife communities, and endanger people’s physical and emotional health.

The purpose of this project was to enhance the knowledge of local tribal environmental professionals in Oklahoma related to planning for extreme weather events as a result of climate change. Researchers hosted a one-day workshop at the University of Oklahoma (OU) that was attended by professionals representing at least five tribes, as well as interdisciplinary scholars and students engaged in climate change research. Participants were provided with background information on climate change, led through a simple process for identifying their community’s vulnerabilities, and pointed toward data sources available to support planning efforts.

This workshop was a vital part of increasing local tribes’ knowledge regarding planning for climate change. In addition, Division of Regional and City Planning faculty and students were introduced to tribal communities’ planning needs related to climate change. The workshop was used to leverage funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for OU’s Planning Division to work with five tribes (Citizen Potawatomie Nation, Kaw Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Fort Sill Apache Nation, and Wichita and Affiliated Tribes) interested in pursuing a deeper understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on their communities and lands.

Understanding Future Fire Frequency and Impacts on Species Distribution in the South Central U.S.

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from July 1, 2014 - December 31, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Ester Stroh, USGS, Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Michael Stambaugh, University of Missouri
  • Richard Guyette, University of Missouri
  • Matthew Struckhoff, USGS, CERC

About:

Fire is critical to maintaining and restoring temperate ecosystems in the South Central U.S. As precipitation patterns and temperatures change in the region, managers require information on how these changes will impact fire frequency, and thus the species and ecosystems within the landscape.

To address this need, researchers will use climate model data to predict and map future changes in fire frequency for Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Researchers will then examine species and ecosystem distribution data to understand the relationship between climate, fire frequency, and species occurrence. This analysis will enable researchers to identify potential future distributions of woody ecosystems and species such as mesquite and eastern red cedar.

The results of this project will help resource managers understand where on the landscape they can expect more frequent and less frequent fires due to changes in climate, and which areas may transition toward other ecosystem types as a result of these changing conditions. Information gathered from this project will assist planning for activities such as fuels management and prescribed fire over the long term.

Using an Ecosystem Services Framework to Examine the Social, Economic and Ecological Tradeoffs of Different Water Management Scenarios In the Kiamichi River Watershed

Funding Amount and Duration:

$23,520 from November 1, 2013 - April 30, 2014

Funding Source:

  • University of Oklahoma

Principal Investigators:

  • Vaughn, Caryn (OU)

About:

Freshwater is vital for both humans and fish and wildlife, but humans are using freshwater more rapidly than it can be replenished. The Kiamichi River watershed in southeastern Oklahoma is at the center of intense conflict over water ownership and use. Missing from these disputes are the needs of the watershed’s rich animal and plant life, including three federally endangered freshwater mussels. Ecosystem services (i.e. benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems) have received increasing attention by both scientists and policy makers as a means to incorporate the multiple benefits that humans receive from natural ecosystems into land management policy and decisions. Rivers and the organisms that inhabit them provide many essential ecosystem services to people such as provisioning services (e.g. water for consumption and agriculture), regulating services (e.g. nutrient processing and water purification), and cultural services (e.g. recreation and spiritual values). This project uses an ecosystem services framework to examine how different water management/environmental flow scenarios in the Kiamichi River watershed affect the delivery of ecosystem services, and thus contribute to the wellbeing of people living both in and outside the watershed. Our approach involves mapping the spatial delivery of a selection of watershed services, and then exploring the tradeoffs between their biophysical, sociocultural and economic values. Once these tasks are completed we can then examine the tradeoffs between different water management strategies and share our results with policy makers and managers.

Improving Representation of Extreme Precipitation Events to Enhance Regional Climate Models

Funding Amount and Duration:

$83,398 from October 1, 2013 - July 31, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey, University of Oklahoma

Principal Investigators:

  • Xue, Ming (OU)

About:

The South Central U.S. encompasses a wide range of ecosystem types and precipitation patterns. Average annual precipitation is less than 10 inches in northwest New Mexico but can exceed 60 inches further east in Louisiana. Much of the region relies on warm-season convective precipitation – that is, highly localized brief but intense periods of rainfall that are common in the summer. This type of precipitation is a significant driver of climate and ecosystem function in the region, but it is also notoriously difficult to predict since it occurs at such small spatial and temporal scales. While global climate models are helpful for understanding and predicting large-scale precipitation trends, they often do not capture many of the smaller atmospheric and earth surface processes that influence local and regional precipitation trends, like convective precipitation.

To address this gap in climate modeling capabilities, researchers developed regional climate models that are better able to project small-scale precipitation patterns and localized extreme precipitation events. Researchers combined information about land surface and water conditions with weather and climate models in order to quantify the local-scale impacts of climate on water resources. This highly localized information will assist regional decision-makers in addressing the challenge of predicting precipitation in the South Central U.S., leading to a better understanding of potential future impacts on agriculture, fish and wildlife, water quality and availability, and cultural resources.

Regional Graduate Student, Post-Doc, and Early Career Researcher Workshop

Funding Amount and Duration:

$50,959 from October 1, 2013 - April 30, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • McPherson, Renee (OU)
  • Rosendahl, Derek (OU)
  • Bamzai, Aparna (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Taylor, April (Chickasaw Nation)
  • Rivera-Monroy, Victor H. (LSU)
  • Zak, John (TTU)
  • Wilson, Duncan (OSU)
  • Dixon, Keith (NOAA GFDL)

About:

Led by the consortium of the South Central Climate Science Center (SC CSC), this project will develop and implement a professional development workshop for graduate students, post-docs, and early career researchers within the SC CSC region. The objectives are to: (1) introduce participants to the goals, structure, and unique research-related challenges of the SC-CSC and its place within the U.S. Department of the Interior and the larger CSC network, offering them insight into how their research fits into the broader research priority goals and its eventual applicability to end user needs across the region; (2) provide an opportunity for participants to present their research to fellow peers; (3) facilitate interdisciplinary interactions between participants within the SC-CSC purview in an effort to foster collaboration opportunities; and (4) generate a set of digitally recorded presentations on the SC-CSC enterprise, a “how to” guide for conducting similar workshops, and a collection of project outlines from small group discussions for internal use. The desire is to remove the institutional barriers, or “silos,” at an influential time of development for these early career professionals and to build a cohort who can continue networking through their research pathways and who can understand and eventually lead outcome-oriented, interdisciplinary research.

Expanding a Standardized Framework for the Evaluation and Intercomparison of Statistically Downscaled Climate Projections

Funding Amount and Duration:

$124,393 from September 30, 2013 - September 30, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey 

Principal Investigators:

  • Lanzante, John (NOAA GFDL)
  • Stoner, Anne (TTU)
  • Dixon, Keith (NOAA GFDL)
  • Balaji, Venkatramani (Princeton University)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Gaitan, Carlos (OU)

About:

This work seeks to improve the ability to generate climate change information that can be used by planners, policymakers, scientists, or the public to study the impacts of climate change at the local level (e. g. a town or a small geographic region). Developing relationships between observed weather elements (such as temperature or precipitation) and projections produced by computer climate models is one of the most common ways to generate this information. However, such an approach assumes that relationships derived during the past will be valid in the future, after climate has changed. Using conventional wisdom, one would have to wait decades to determine to what extent this assumption is valid. This research uses a novel approach in which researchers substitute certain climate model projections for future “observations” to test this assumption. Current findings suggest that the assumption does hold reasonably well in many cases, but there are instances (for example particular geographical locations, such as coastal regions, and times of year, especially summer) when this assumption is not as robust. This research further explores under what conditions the assumption degrades, and develops ways to make the methods that generate local information about climate change more reliable.

Modeling the Effects of Environmental Change on Crucial Wildlife Habitat

Funding Amount and Duration:

$277,704 from September 1, 2013 - September 1, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Caldwell, Colleen (USGS)
  • Boykin, Kenneth (NMSU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Seamster, Virginia (NMSU)
  • Muldavin, Esteban (Natural Heritage NM)
  • McCollough, Rayo (Natural Heritage NM)
  • Neville, Teri (Natural Heritage NM)

About:

Changing temperature and precipitation patterns in the South Central U.S are already having an impact on wildlife. Hotter and drier conditions are prompting some species to move in search of cooler conditions, while other species are moving into warmer areas that were once unsuitable for them. These changes in the distribution of wildlife populations present challenges for wildlife managers, hunters, tribal communities, and others who are making decisions about wildlife stewardship.

This project examined the effect of shifting climate conditions on 20 species of conservation concern in the South Central United States. These species, which include the black-tailed prairie dog and the lesser prairie-chicken, were selected according to several criteria, including their expected sensitivity to climatic change. Researchers examined where these species currently occur in order to better understand the environmental, especially climate, conditions necessary for their survival. Climate and land use change projections for 2050 and 2070 were used to assess the potential future distributions of conditions suitable for these species.

Maps evaluating patterns of loss of suitable conditions for the species were developed and incorporated into the publicly accessible New Mexico state-level CHAT (Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool). CHATs are being used by states across the western U.S. to facilitate conservation and project planning, and are useful to decision-makers at all levels of government. Therefore, incorporating information about the potential impact of climate and land use change on species distributions into this tool will ensure that this important information is accessible to managers.

Impacts of Climate Change on Flows in the Red River Basin

Funding Amount and Duration:

$291,580 from August 1, 2013 - August 1, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Kellogg, Wayne (Chickasaw Nation)
  • McPherson, Renee (OU)
  • Hong, Yang (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Austin, Barney (INTERA, Inc.)
  • Rosendahl, Derek (OU)
  • Gaitan, Carlos (OU)
  • Qiao, Lei (OU)

About:

The Red River Basin is a vital source of water in the South Central U.S., supporting ecosystems, drinking water, agriculture, tourism and recreation, and cultural ceremonies. Stretching from the High Plains of New Mexico eastward to the Mississippi River, the Red River Basin encompasses parts of five states – New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Further, 74% of the jurisdictional boundaries of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Tribes are located within the basin.

Water resources in the basin have been stressed in recent years due to a multi-year drought and increasing demands for consumptive use by metropolitan areas in Oklahoma and Texas. Unfortunately, currently available projections of future precipitation across the region show a high degree of uncertainty, making it difficult for water managers to plan for the future.

The goal of this project is to provide resource managers with critical information on the impacts of climate change on flow in the Red River Basin. Researchers (1) used global climate models to make climate projections for the basin, and (2) developed models to determine the impacts of projected future climate conditions on stream flow. The modeling results can be used to evaluate future water supplies for water providers and flows for the environment.

The Red River Basin lies within the boundaries of three Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), and the results of this project will help the LCCs and other managers reduce the impacts of floods and droughts and make decisions regarding the potential need for additional reservoirs or diversions of water into the Red River Basin. The tools developed for this study can also be used to evaluate the impacts of different flow conditions on aquatic life or water quality in the basin.

Predicting Sky Island Forest Vulnerability to Climate Change: Fine Scale Climate Variability, Drought Tolerance, and Fire Response

Funding Amount and Duration:

$99,937 from July 15, 2013 - July 15, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Schwilk, Dylan (TTU)
  • Holaday, Scott (TTU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Poulos, Helen (Poulos Environmental Consulting, LLC.)
  • Stoner, Anne (TTU)

About:

The Sky Island forests of the southwestern United States are one of the most diverse temperate forest ecosystems in the world, providing key habitat for migrating and residential species alike. Black bear, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and wild turkey are just a few of the species found in these isolated mountain ecosystems that rise out of the desert landscape. However, recent droughts have crippled these ecosystems, causing significant tree death. Climate predictions suggest that this region will only face hotter and drier conditions in the future, potentially stressing these ecosystems even further. Simple models predict that vegetation will move to cooler and wetter locations in response to this warming. However, species responses will likely be more complex than these models show, as vegetation navigates other ecological stressors such as elevation change and water availability.

In order to better predict how vegetation will move in response to future warming, a more robust understanding of how drought and temperature impact tree survival is needed. Focusing on three Sky Island habitats in western Texas, this project will identify the key traits influencing current distributions of forest tree species, determine the susceptibility of these species to drought and temperature, and develop fine-scale, localized climate projections that model future conditions for the study area. This information will then be used to predict how species might shift location in response to warmer and drier future climates, enabling managers to make more robust decisions that will preserve Sky Island forests in the face of a changing climate.

Ecosystem Stress Response Function of Climate Change for the Arkansas-Red River Basin

Funding Amount and Duration:

$422,730 from July 1, 2013 - July 1, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Grout, Trevor (USGS)
  • Harich, Christopher (USGS)
  • Andrews, Bill (USGS)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • University of Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma State University

About:

Currently, maintaining appropriate flows to support biological integrity is difficult for larger riverine ecosystems. Climate change, through increased temperature, reduced rainfall, and increased rainfall intensity, is expected to reduce water availability and exacerbate the maintenance of ecological flows in the Arkansas-Red River basin. Understanding the nexus among climate change effects on streamflow, water quality, and stream ecology for watersheds in the Arkansas-Red River Basin can be achieved using currently existing science and technology. This nexus approach will strengthen adaptive-management strategies that focus on shared ecosystem conservation watershed targets. This approach will provide natural-resource managers operating over a variety of spatial scales with measureable relationships between biology and flow while building modeling, monitoring, and statistical capacity to support restoration, conservation, and management goals.

Assessment of Water Availability and Associated Drivers for Historic and Future Conditions in the South Central Climate Science Center Region

Funding Amount and Duration:

$223,400 from June 1, 2013 - June 1, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Hay, Lauren (USGS)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Bock, Andy (USGS)
  • LaFontaine, Jacob (USGS)
  • McCabe, Gregory J. (USGS)
  • Markstrom, Steven (USGS)
  • Regan, Steven (USGS)
  • Viger, Roland (USGS)
  • Montgomery, Gail (USGS)
  • Kern, Tim (USGS)
  • Stamm, John (USGS)

About:

Understanding the changes in the distribution and quantity of, and demand for, water resources in response to a changing climate is essential to planning for, and adapting to, future climatic conditions. In order to plan for future conditions and challenges, it is crucial that managers understand the limitations and uncertainties associated with the characterization of these changes when making management decisions. Changes in consumptive water use (water removed without return to a water resources system) will change streamflow, impacting downstream water users, their livelihoods, as well as aquatic ecosystems. Historical changes in available water may be attributed to changes in precipitation; but these changes may also be attributable to changes in consumptive use. Understanding the roles of natural and anthropogenic influences on the water cycle is an important component of this proposal. The objective of this project is to provide an automated methodology and data products that the public can view, work with, and download through ScienceBase to assess: the accuracy of available climate data and climate projections, the hydrologic effects of these drivers on runoff for historical and future conditions, and the role of consumptive water use on available water supply.

Establishing a Foundation for Understanding Climate Impacts on Coastal Wetland Ecosystems

Funding Amount and Duration:

$257,500 from June 1, 2013 - June 1, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Osland, Micahel (USGS)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Grace, James B. (USGS)
  • Stagg, Camillie L. (USGS)
  • Day, Richard H. (USGS)
  • Hartley, Stephen B. (USGS)

About:

Coastal wetlands are one of the most economically valuable ecosystems in the world. In the United States, the ecosystem services provided by wetlands are worth billions of dollars and include flood protection, erosion control, seafood, water quality enhancement, carbon storage, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are also highly sensitive to changing climate conditions. Past research on climate impacts to coastal wetlands have concentrated primarily on sea-level rise, largely ignoring the important influence of changing temperature and precipitation patterns. Understanding the impact of temperature and precipitation on coastal wetlands can help natural and cultural resource managers account for these factors when making decisions or developing adaptation plans.

This study advances understanding of how temperature and precipitation influence coastal wetland ecosystems. The study models the relationships between wetland plant community structure and climate in the northern Gulf of Mexico and identifies potential impacts of future climate conditions on these ecosystems. The researchers identify critical ecological thresholds and demonstrate that transformative ecological changes due to climatic shifts are probable throughout the Gulf of Mexico within this century. In certain areas, small changes in temperature or rainfall are expected to trigger large ecological changes and affect certain ecosystem services. Because coastal wetland ecosystems in other parts of the world are also sensitive to changes in temperature and rainfall, the findings of this research have global implications, helping to inform the management of these highly valuable ecosystems under a changing climate.

Terrestrial Connectivity Across the South Central United States: Implications for the Sustainability of Wildlife Populations and Communities

Funding Amount and Duration:

$203,918 from October 1, 2012 - September 1, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey 

Principal Investigators:

  • Baum, Kristen A. (OSU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Fuhlendorf, Samuel. B. (OSU)
  • Giles, Kristopher L. (OSU)
  • Saenz, Daniel (USFS)
  • Papes, Monica (OSU)
  • Elliot, Norman C. (USDA)
  • Bartush, Bill (GCP LCC)
  • Janus, Allan (ODWC)

About:

Connectivity, or the extent to which a landscape facilitates or impedes the movement of organisms, is an important component of the sustainability of wildlife populations and communities. Habitat fragmentation, modification, and loss have been implicated in the decline of almost all threatened and endangered species, and both continued land-use change and climate change will have an effect on habitats. The goal of this project is to use a systematic and comprehensive approach to evaluate terrestrial connectivity across the South Central United States. Models will be used to predict patterns of connectivity for species which vary in habitat preferences, methods of habitat selection, and responses to the area between habitats. Researchers will evaluate the implications of predicted land-use change across the study area, including a focus on climate change and dominant land uses within the region. The results of this project will include spatially explicit connectivity maps that can be used for making informed management decisions about terrestrial connectivity within this region.

Assessing the Potential Impact of Sea-Level Rise on Submerged Aquatic Vegetation and Waterfowl in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Funding Amount and Duration:

$267,209 from September 1, 2012 - August 30, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • La Peyre, Megan (USGS, LFWCRU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Nyman, Andy (LSU)
  • Poirrier, Mike (Univ. of New Orleans)
  • Couvillion, Brady (USGS, NWRC)
  • Merino, Joy (NMFS)
  • Brasher, Mike (GCJV, Ducks Unlimited)
  • DeMaso, Stephen (GCJV, US FWS)
  • Wilson, Barry (GCJV)

About:

Submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) communities are highly productive ecosystems that provide significant ecological benefits to coastal areas, including essential caloriesfor wintering waterfowl. However, the potential effects of sea-level rise is posing new questions about the future availability of SAV for waterfowl and other coastal wildlife. Of primary concern is the fact that rising seas have the potential to increase salinities in fresh and brackish marshes on the Gulf of Mexico’s coast, changing the distribution and composition of SAV communities, and affecting valuable waterfowl habitat and food resources. Not enough is known about the relationship between salinity and SAV to predict how this important food resource will respond to higher salinity levels, creating difficulties for waterfowl conservation planning.

This project identified the relationship between SAV, salinity, and other environmental variables as a first step in understanding how sea-level rise might affect food availability for waterfowl. The study examined coastal marshes of the northern Gulf of Mexico from Mobile Bay, AL, to the Nueces River, TX. Researchers compared SAV distribution and composition across a range of salinity levels, and found that water depth and salinity were the primary factors in determining the amount of SAV resources in a particular marsh. Surprisingly, researchers also found that brackish marsh tended to produce quantities of SAV waterfowl food resources similar to those in fresh marsh environments. The study also found some evidence that saline marshes contain less waterfowl food resources than brackish, intermediate, and fresh marshes.

This work will directly benefit efforts of the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, Gulf Coast Prairies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), and Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks LCC in forecasting the effects of sea-level rise on the distribution, abundance, and diversity of SAV resources and the priority fish and wildlife populations that depend upon them.

Expert Workshop to Build CSC Expertise in Understanding the Social and Communication Dimensions of Climate Change

Funding Amount and Duration:

$50,000 from September 1, 2012 - December 1, 2013

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Patterson, Dennis (TTU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Hayhoe, Katharine (TTU)
  • Dunlap, Riley (OSU)

About:

A limited amount of valid scientific information about global climate change and its detrimental impacts has reached the public and exerted a positive impact on the public policy process or future planning for adaptation and mitigation. This project is designed to address this limitation by bringing together expertise in the social and communication sciences from targeted academic institutions affiliated with the Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers (CSCs) by means of a workshop. Workshop attendees will address and examine barriers to climate communication and methods for communicating science for policy application and engaging media and outreach. Results from the workshop will be published and made available as a resource to CSCs, scientists, land managers, and policymakers. This effort will bring together the expertise needed to ensure that the nation’s CSCs are able to effectively communicate the science of the important but often misunderstood issue of anthropogenic climate change and meaningfully support effective policy across the United States.

Delineation of Fresh, Intermediate, Brackish and Saline Marsh Types of the North Central Gulf of Mexico Coast

Funding Amount and Duration:

$150,000 from July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey 

Principal Investigators:

  • Hartley, Stephen B. (USGS)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Couvillion, Brady (USGS)
  • Jones, William R. (USGS)
  • Enwright, Nicholas M. (Five Rivers Services)
  • Brasher, Mike (GCJV, Ducks Unlimited)
  • WIlson, Barry (GCJV, US FWS)
  • Visser, Jenneke (UL-Lafayette)
  • Ballard, Bart (TAMU, Kingsville)

About:

Spatial data depicting marsh types (e.g. fresh, intermediate, brackish and saline) for the north-central Gulf of Mexico coast are inconsistent across the region, limiting the ability of conservation planners to model the current and future capacity of the coast to sustain priority species. The goal of this study is to (1) update the resolution of coastal Texas vegetation data to match that of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and (2) update vegetation maps for the Texas through Alabama region using current Landsat Imagery. Creating consistent regional vegetation maps will enable scientists to model vegetation response to and potential impacts of future climate change.

Evaluating the Assumption of Stationarity in Statistical Downscaling Applications

Funding Amount and Duration:

$50,000 from July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Hayhoe, Katherine (TTU)
  • Dixon, Keith (NOAA GFDL)
  • Lanzante, John (NOAA GFDL)

About:

Regional assessments of the impacts of climate change on both human systems and the natural environment require high-resolution projections to see the effects of global-scale change on the local environment. This project will address a critical and generally overlooked assumption inherent to these projections of regional, multi-decadal climate change: that the statistical relationship between global climate model simulation outputs and real, observed climate data remain constant over time. Utilizing a “perfect—?model” experimental design and the output of two high-resolution global climate model simulations, this study will evaluate and report on the ability of three different methods to simulate current and future temperature and precipitation in the U.S., with a focus on the southern Great Plains region. Differences between the methods’ abilities during the late 20th versus late 21st century time periods will provide valuable information regarding the level of confidence we should attribute to the climate projections commonly used in impacts analyses and as the basis for decision-support and planning purposes.

Synthesizing Ecohydrology Models as a Management Tool for Landscape Conservation under Climate Change

Funding Amount and Duration:

$50,000 from July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey 

Principal Investigators:

  • Brewer, Shannon K (USGS, OFWCRU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Zou, Chris B. (OSU)
  • Kemp, Paul (Univ. of Southhampton)
  • Worthington, Thomas (OSU)
  • OCRU

About:

To date, hydrological and ecological models have been developed independently from each other, making their application particularly challenging for interdisciplinary studies. The objective of this project is to synthesize and evaluate prevailing hydrological and ecological models in the South-Central U.S., particularly the southern Great Plains region. This analysis will identify the data requirements and suitability of each model to simulate stream flow while addressing associated changes in the ecology of stream systems, and will portray climate variability and uncertainty. The anticipated results and deliverables of this project will include a comprehensive, updated, and systematic report on recent developments in ecosystem hydrology with a focus on freshwater resource management. This synthesis report will directly address existing needs of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) by providing information that can be readily used to help understand the effect of climate change and land management on hydrology and associated fish communities.

Inter-Tribal Workshops on Climate Variability and Change

Funding Amount and Duration:

$55,407 from July 1, 2012 - December 1, 2013

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Smith, Laurel (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • McPherson, Renee (OU)
  • Peppler, Randy (OU)
  • Riley, Rachel (OU)
  • Kellogg, Wayne (Chickasaw Nation)
  • Bonham, Dana McDaniel (Choctaw Nation)
  • Winton, Kim T (USGS)
  • Gomez, Filoteo (Private)

About:

New partnerships among tribal nations and members of the climate science and conservation communities call for multicultural conversations about climate change, risk, and variability. To contribute to the goal of mutual understanding, this project will develop and implement a series of workshops that will (1) educate tribal representatives across the region about climate science and climate adaptation practices, (2) document climate impacts on the tribal nations and their peoples, lands, resources, and economies, and (3) extend, enhance, and foster dialogue among tribal representatives, climate scientists, and conservation leadership. By blending educational outreach with preliminary research on how tribal members know and conceptualize weather and climate, as well as how they have historically struggled with adapting to new climate conditions, this project will facilitate the design of products that tribal decision makers can use, help monitor climate change in the field, and provide lessons about adaptation that are useful for both tribal and non-tribal communities and businesses.

Uncertainty Analysis of New Statistically Downscaled Climate Projections for the South Central U.S.

Funding Amount and Duration:

$ from January 1, 1970 - January 1, 1970

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Carlos F. Gaitan, University of Oklahoma (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Berrien Moore III & Renee McPherson (OU)
  • Keith W. Dixon & John Lanzante (NOAA-Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab)

About:

Downscaling techniques are often used to generate finer scale projections of climate variables as the coarse resolution of the global climate models (GCMs) prevents them from resolving, small-scale dynamical features, and because the stakeholders often need relevant information at the local scale. However, different sources of uncertainty can affect the downscaled projections. Here we will assess the sensitivity of three statistical downscaling techniques and three daily climate variables, to the use of three different gridded observation-based datasets, three GCMs and three 21st century emission scenarios. Thus, we will produce 243 sets of local-scale climate projections - of potential use in subsequent climate impacts analyses - to study the uncertainties. The downscaled climate projections will be made available for stakeholders to download, supplemented by stakeholder engagement across the region. The study area encompasses all or parts of eight states (NM, TX, OK, LA, CO, KS, AR and MO). Overall, planning agencies, stakeholders, hydrological modelers, ecologists, biologists and economists, among many others, will benefit from knowing the sensitivities of the downscaling methods to these sources of uncertainty, as analyzing the differences among the 243 projections will provide valuable information regarding the level of confidence we should attribute to the local scale climate projections.