The north-central region of the U.S. has experienced a series of extreme droughts in recent years, with impacts felt across a range of sectors. For example, the impacts of a 2002 drought are estimated to have resulted in a $3 billion loss to the agricultural sector in Nebraska and South Dakota. Meanwhile, the ecological impacts of drought in the region have included increased tree mortality, surges in the outbreak of pests, and intensifying forest fires.
Located within this region is the Missouri River Basin, an important agricultural production area home to approximately 12 million people, including 28 Native American tribes. Tribal governments and multiple federal agencies manage land and natural resources in the drought-impacted Basin. The goal of this project was to understand how federal and tribal natural resource managers experience and deal with drought in this landscape. To do this, researchers documented how managers perceive drought impacts, how their decisions are affected by these perceptions, and their capacity to respond to and prepare for drought.
This information is expected to enable researchers to determine the types of climate data and tools that will help managers operating under drought conditions. Locally-specific “drought stories” are being developed, detailing historic trends and future projections of drought, as well as the risk perceptions, decisions, and adaptive capacities of local managers. Understanding the different perceptions and impacts of drought felt by managers can help provide a foundation for fostering more collective resource management across the region in the face of future drought.
This project team is part of the North Central Climate Science Center’s Foundational Science Area Team, which supports foundational research and advice, guidance, and technical assistance to other NC CSC projects as they address climate science challenges that are important for land managers and ecologists in the region.