Grasslands in the northern Great Plains are important ecosystems that support local economies, tribal communities, livestock grazing, diverse plant and animal communities, and large-scale migrations of big game ungulates, grassland birds, and waterfowl. Climate change and variability impact how people and animals live on and interact with grasslands, and can bring more frequent droughts, fires, or new plant species that make managing these landscapes challenging. Understanding how climate change and variability will impact grassland ecosystems and their management in the 21st century first requires a synthesis of what is known across all of these scales and a gap analysis to identify key areas of focus for future research.
Researchers will address this need by conducting a series of synthesis efforts to (1) identify and describe known management questions and information needs of stakeholders related to grasslands; (2) assess the state-of-the-science on climate change and variability in the northern Great Plains region; and (3) describe ecological responses to climate variability and change across the grasslands, including tipping points, changing fire patterns, spreading invasive species, changing species distributions, habitat fragmentation, and other changes in ecological communities. This project supports resource managers by providing them with the scientific information needed to make best-practice management decisions about northern Great Plains grasslands and will foster relationships with the conservation and management organizations that will utilize this science to make decisions about public lands.
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“Grasslands - Credit: Tom Koerner, USFWS”