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Changing climate conditions such as increasing droughts, floods, and wildfires, hotter temperatures, declining snowpacks, and changes in the timing of seasonal events are already having an impact on wildlife and their habitats. In order to make forward-looking management decisions that consider ongoing and future projected changes in climate, managers require access to climate information that can be easily integrated into the planning process. Co-production, a process whereby scientists work closely with managers to identify and fill knowledge gaps, is an effective means of ensuring that science results will be directly useful to managers. Through a multi-phase project, researchers are implementing co-production...
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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...
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One of the biggest challenges facing resource managers today is not knowing exactly when, where, or how climate change effects will unfold. To help federal land managers address this need, the North Central CASC has been working with the National Park Service to pioneer an approach for incorporating climate science and scenario planning into NPS planning processes, in particular Resource Stewardship Strategies (RSS). These strategies serve as a long-range planning tool for a national park unit to achieve its desired natural and cultural resource conditions, and are used to guide a park’s full spectrum of resource-specific management plans and day-to-day management activities. To support adaptation planning within...
~300 word summary: Example: The North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center (NC CASC) is hosted by the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU Boulder) with consortium partners University of Montana (UM), South Dakota State University (SDSU), Conservation Science Partners (CSP), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance (GPTWA). During the period of 2018 - 2023, the NC CASC consortium will strive to i) deliver the best climate science for resource managers derived through co-production; ii) capitalize on the wealth of big, diverse data to inform resource management decisions at an appropriate scale in the region; and iii) leverage work within and across CASCs through open science...
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The sagebrush ecosystem is home to diverse wildlife, including big-game and Greater sage-grouse. Historic and contemporary land-uses, large wildfires, exotic plant invasion, and woodland expansion all represent threats to this multiple-use landscape. Efforts of federal and state agencies and private landowners across the landscape are focused on restoration and maintenance of conditions that support wildlife, livestock, energy development, and many other uses. However, this semi-arid landscape presents challenges for management due to highly variable patterns in growing conditions that lead to differences in plant composition, fuel accumulation, and vegetation recovery. Much of this variability is created by soil...
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Pinyon pine woodlands are among the most widespread and iconic vegetation types in the western United States and support recreation, resource extraction, grazing, and cultural enrichment. However, severe drought conditions have recently caused dramatic mortality of pinyon pines, creating concern about the long-term impact of increasing aridity on the viability of pinyon woodlands. Ecological transformations, or regime shifts, are rapid reorganizations of an ecosystem’s species composition, governing processes, and functions. The goal of this project is to investigate ecological transformation across the Western U.S, characterize the environmental drivers of these changes in vegetation, and apply those insights...
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Science produced by the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC) network must ideally be scientifically sound, relevant to a management decision, fair and respectful of stakeholders’ divergent values, and produced through a process of iterative collaboration between scientists and managers. However, research that aims to produce usable knowledge and collaborative approaches that boost usability are not common in academia or federal research programs. As a result, neither the process of creating such research nor the impacts to stakeholders are well understood or well documented. This lack of attention to the processes and impacts of collaborative scientist-stakeholder knowledge production also...
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Big sagebrush plant communities are important and widespread in western North America and are crucial for meeting long-term conservation goals for greater sage-grouse and other wildlife of conservation concern. Yet wildfire is increasing in the West, turning biodiverse, shrub-based ecosystems dominated by sagebrush into grasslands containing invasive species such as cheatgrass and less overall plant and animal diversity. These transformations negatively impact people and ecosystems by reducing habitat quality for wildlife and the aesthetic value of the landscape. Understanding how sagebrush communities are already responding and will continue to respond to changes in wildfire, invasive species, and climate is...
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Forested areas in the Western U.S. that are impacted by disturbances such as fire and drought have increased in recent decades. This trend is likely to continue, with the increase in frequency and extent of wildfire activity being especially concerning. Resource managers need reliable scientific information to better understand wildfire occurrence, which can vary substantially across landscapes and throughout time. However, few scientific models capture this variability, and projections of future potential changes in fire occurrence can include some uncertainty. This uncertainty can limit our ability to anticipate potential wildfire impacts on society and ecological systems. Another method to help managers prepare...
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The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) and the North Central Climate Science Center (NC CSC) seek to enhance scientific understanding of how climate trends and variability are linked to phenology across spatial scales, with the ultimate goal of being able to understand and predict climate impacts on natural resources. A key step towards achieving this long-term goal is connecting local observations (individual plants or animals) of phenology with those at regional to continental scales (10 km to 10,000 km), which may ultimately be used to better understand phenology across ecosystems and landscapes and thereby inform natural resource management. The specific shorter-term goals of this effort are to process...
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Lakes, reservoirs, and ponds are central and integral features of the North Central U.S. These water bodies provide aesthetic, cultural, and ecosystem services to surrounding wildlife and human communities. External impacts – such as climate change – can have significant impacts to these important parts of the region’s landscape. Understanding the responses of lakes to these drivers is critical for species conservation and management decisions. Water temperature data are foundational to providing this understanding and are currently the most widely measured of all aquatic parameters with over 400 unique groups monitoring water temperature in U.S. lakes and rivers. However, lake temperature data are lacking at...
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Drought is a complex environmental hazard that impacts both ecological and social systems. Accounting for the role of human attitudes, institutions, and societal values in drought planning is important to help identify how various drought durations and severity may differentially affect social resilience to adequately respond to and manage drought impacts. While there have been successful past efforts to understand how individuals, communities, institutions, and agencies plan for and respond to drought, these studies have relied on extensive multi-year case studies in specific locations. In contrast, this project seeks to determine how social science insights and methods can best contribute to ecological drought...
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The National Park Service (NPS) is responsible for managing livestock grazing in 94 units, and several park grazing management planning efforts are currently underway. However, there is a recognized need to update grazing management practices to address potential future effects of management practices and climate change. The goal of this project is to outline the steps required for developing NPS grazing management plans, to identify information needs and availability for these planning processes, and to initiate a scenario-based pilot project for meeting these needs at a given park unit. This will serve as an important step toward developing a transferable process to help parks ensure that grazing management practices...
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The Climate Adaptation Science Centers have conducted numerous training and skills development activities to support tribal and indigenous partners as they seek to use scientific information and techniques to understand and respond to climate change impacts. Because these activities were generated in different CASC regions, with different tribal / indigenous stakeholders, climate change contexts, and training needs, and because the CASC network encourages innovation, these activities were not developed or implemented in a nationally consistent format. This project seeks to identify relevant activities, gather related materials and links that might benefit others seeking to implement similar activities, provide a...
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The bison, which has long served as the symbol of the Department of the Interior, became the official national mammal of the United States in 2016. Bison played a key role in shaping the grasslands of the Great Plains for millennia, but today they are confined to unnaturally small ranges. National parks, including four in the Great Plains, provide a major last bastion for wild bison. Herds in Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota are wild in that their movements are unconstrained within their park’s designated bison range, they receive no supplemental feed, minerals, or veterinary attention,...
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The Missouri River system is the life-blood of the American Midwest, providing critical water resources that drive the region’s agriculture, industry, hydroelectric power generation, and ecosystems. The basin has a long history of development and diversion of water resources, meaning that streamflow records that reflect natural, unmanaged flows over the past century have been rare. As a result, research on the complex interactions between temperature and precipitation in driving droughts and surface water variability in the Missouri River Basin has lagged behind similar work done in other major basins in the country, and has hindered drought planning efforts. To address this need, researchers will use tree-rings...
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As pressures from climate change and other anthropogenic stressors, like invasive species, increase, new challenges arise for natural resource managers who are responsible for the health of public lands. One of the greatest challenges these managers face is that the traditional way of managing resources might not be as effective, or in some cases might be ineffective, in light of transformational ecological impacts that exist at the intersection of society and ecosystems. Thus, managers are struggling to understand how they should be managing shared natural resources and landscapes in this new era. This project studies the decision-making process of federal land managers to illuminate how decisions are being navigated...
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Sagebrush steppe is one of the most widely distributed ecosystems in North America. Found in eleven western states, this important yet fragile ecosystem is dominated by sagebrush, but also contains a diversity of native shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants. It provides critical habitat for wildlife like pronghorn and threatened species such as the greater sage-grouse, and is grazed by livestock on public and private lands. However, this landscape is increasingly threatened by shifts in wildfire patterns, the spread of invasive grasses, and changing climate conditions. While sagebrush is slow to recover after fires, non-native grasses such as cheatgrass thrive in post-fire conditions and the spread of these species...
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Forests in the western U.S. are increasingly impacted by climate change. Warmer and drier conditions both increase fire activity in western forests and make it more difficult for forests to recover after wildfires. If forests fail to recover, they may shift to non-forest ecosystems like grasslands or shrublands. It is important to understand where fires may result in the loss of forests because forests provide a variety of ecosystem services that human communities rely on, including carbon storage, water regulation and supply, and biodiversity. Western forests are also integral for the timber industry and valued for their recreation opportunities. Anticipating future changes to forest ecosystems, particularly at...
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Drought events have cost the U.S. nearly $245 billion since 1980, with costs ranging from $2 to $44 billion in any given year. However, these socio-economic losses are not the only impacts of drought. Ecosystems, fish, wildlife, and plants also suffer, and these types of drought impacts are becoming more commonplace. Further, ecosystems that recover from drought are now doing so under different climate conditions than they have experienced in the past few centuries. As temperature and precipitation patterns change, “transformational drought”, or drought events that can permanently and irreversibly alter ecosystems – such as forests converting to grasslands – are a growing threat. This type of drought has cascading...


map background search result map search result map Improving the Success of Post-Fire Adaptive Management Strategies in Sagebrush Steppe Big Sagebrush Response to Wildfire and Invasive Grasses in the 21st Century Mapping the Risk of Ecological Transformation Across Pinyon Woodlands and the U.S. West Enabling Climate-Informed Planning and Decisions about Species of Conservation Concern in the North Central Region: Phase 2 Characterizing Historic Streamflow to Support Drought Planning in the Upper Missouri River Basin Supporting the National Park Service Midwest Region Bison Management Plan Understanding Historical and Predicting Future Lake Temperatures in North and South Dakota Refining Guidance for Incorporating Climate Science and Scenario Planning into National Park Service Resource Stewardship Strategies Developing and Testing a Rapid Assessment Method for Understanding Key Social Factors of Ecological Drought Preparedness Integrating Climate Considerations into Grazing Management Programs in National Parks Understanding Local Resistance and Resilience to Future Habitat Change in the Sagebrush Ecosystem Approaches to Evaluate Actionable Science for Climate Adaptation Synthesis of Climate Impacts and Adaptation on Grassland Ecosystems in the Northern Great Plains Anticipating Forest Vulnerability to Fire-Catalyzed Ecosystem Change in the Northern Rocky Mountains State of the Science Synthesis on Transformational Drought: Understanding Drought’s Potential to Transform Ecosystems Across the Country Synthesis of CASC-Led Climate Training Activities for Tribes and Indigenous Communities Incorporating USGS Web Cameras into the Phenocam Network to Enhance Scientific Understanding of Phenological Trends and Variability Drought and Disturbances as Drivers of Long-Term Ecological Transformation and Risk HOST AWARD TEMPLATE: North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center Consortium - Hosted by The University of Colorado Boulder University (2018-2023) (COPY) Public land manager decision-making under ecological transformation Refining Guidance for Incorporating Climate Science and Scenario Planning into National Park Service Resource Stewardship Strategies Integrating Climate Considerations into Grazing Management Programs in National Parks Supporting the National Park Service Midwest Region Bison Management Plan Understanding Historical and Predicting Future Lake Temperatures in North and South Dakota Improving the Success of Post-Fire Adaptive Management Strategies in Sagebrush Steppe Anticipating Forest Vulnerability to Fire-Catalyzed Ecosystem Change in the Northern Rocky Mountains Enabling Climate-Informed Planning and Decisions about Species of Conservation Concern in the North Central Region: Phase 2 Synthesis of Climate Impacts and Adaptation on Grassland Ecosystems in the Northern Great Plains Drought and Disturbances as Drivers of Long-Term Ecological Transformation and Risk HOST AWARD TEMPLATE: North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center Consortium - Hosted by The University of Colorado Boulder University (2018-2023) (COPY) Characterizing Historic Streamflow to Support Drought Planning in the Upper Missouri River Basin Big Sagebrush Response to Wildfire and Invasive Grasses in the 21st Century Understanding Local Resistance and Resilience to Future Habitat Change in the Sagebrush Ecosystem Approaches to Evaluate Actionable Science for Climate Adaptation Mapping the Risk of Ecological Transformation Across Pinyon Woodlands and the U.S. West Public land manager decision-making under ecological transformation Developing and Testing a Rapid Assessment Method for Understanding Key Social Factors of Ecological Drought Preparedness State of the Science Synthesis on Transformational Drought: Understanding Drought’s Potential to Transform Ecosystems Across the Country Synthesis of CASC-Led Climate Training Activities for Tribes and Indigenous Communities Incorporating USGS Web Cameras into the Phenocam Network to Enhance Scientific Understanding of Phenological Trends and Variability