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The Integrated Scenarios of the Future Northwest Environment project (an FY2012 NW CSC funded project), resulted in several datasets describing projected changes in climate, hydrology and vegetation for the 21st century over the Northwestern US. The raw data is available in netCDF format, which is a standard data file format for weather forecasting/climate change/GIS applications. However, the sheer size of these datasets and the specific file format (netCDF) for data access pose significant barriers to data access for many users. This is a particular challenge for many natural/cultural resource managers and others working on conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest. The goal of this project was to increase...
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As the impacts of climate change amplify, understanding the consequences for wetlands will be critical for their sustainable management and conservation, particularly in arid regions such as the Columbia Plateau. The depressional wetlands in this region (wetlands located in topographic depressions where water can accumulate) are an important source of surface water during the summer months. However, their health depends directly on precipitation and evaporation, making them susceptible to changes in temperature and precipitation. Yet few tools for monitoring water movement patterns (hydrology) in and out of these landscapes currently exist, hindering efforts to model how they are changing. This project provided...
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Cheatgrass began invading the Great Basin about 100 years ago, changing large parts of the landscape from a rich, diverse ecosystem to one where a single invasive species dominates. Cheatgrass dominated areas experience more fires that burn more land than in native ecosystems, resulting in economic and resource losses. Therefore, the reduced production, or absence, of cheatgrass in previously invaded areas during years of adequate precipitation could be seen as a windfall. However, this cheatgrass dieoff phenomenon creates other problems for land managers like accelerated soil erosion, loss of early spring food supply for livestock and wildlife, and unknown recovery pathways. We used satellite data and scientific...
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Resource managers, policymakers, and scientists require tools to inform water resource management and planning. Information on hydrologic factors – such as streamflow, snowpack, and soil moisture – is important for understanding and predicting wildfire risk, flood activity, and agricultural and rangeland productivity, among others. Existing tools for modeling hydrologic conditions rely on information on temperature and precipitation. This project sought to evaluate different methods for downscaling global climate models – that is, taking information produced at a global scale and making it useable at a regional scale, in order to produce more accurate projections of temperature and precipitation for the Pacific...
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The distribution and abundance of cheatgrass, an invasive annual grass native to Eurasia, has increased substantially across the Intermountain West, including the Great Basin. Cheatgrass is highly flammable, and as it has expanded, the extent and frequency of fire in the Great Basin has increased by as much as 200%. These changes in fire regimes are associated with loss of the native sagebrush, grasses, and herbaceous flowering plants that provide habitat for many native animals, including Greater Sage-Grouse. Changes in vegetation and fire management have been suggested with the intent of conserving Greater Sage-Grouse. However, the potential responses of other sensitive-status birds to these changes in management...
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The rugged landscapes of northern Idaho and western Montana support biodiverse ecosystems, and provide a variety of natural resources and services for human communities. However, the benefits provided by these ecosystems may be at risk as changing climate magnifies existing stressors and allows new stressors to emerge. Preparation for and response to these potential changes can be most effectively addressed through multi-stakeholder partnerships, evaluating vulnerability of important resources to climate change, and developing response and preparation strategies for managing key natural resources in a changing world. This project supports climate-smart conservation and management across forests of northern Idaho...
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The Gulf of Alaska is one of the most productive marine ecosystems on Earth, supporting salmon fisheries that alone provide nearly $1 billion per year in economic benefits to Southeast Alaska. Glaciers are central to many of the area’s natural processes and economic activities, but the rates of glacier loss in Alaska are among the highest on Earth, with a 26-36 percent reduction in total volume expected by the end of the century. This project brought together scientists and managers at a workshop to synthesize the impacts of glacier change on the region’s coastal ecosystems and to determine related research and monitoring needs. Collected knowledge shows that melting glaciers are expected to have cascading effects...
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The Northwest Climate Conference (formerly called the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference) is the premier climate science event for the region, providing a forum for researchers and practitioners to share scientific results and discuss challenges and solutions related to the impacts of climate change on people, natural resources, and infrastructure in the Northwest. Conference participants include policy- and decision-makers, resource managers, and scientists from academia, public agencies, sovereign tribal nations, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. More information can be found at the conference website: http://pnwclimateconference.org. The Second Annual Pacific Northwest Climate...
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Climate change is already affecting species in many ways. Because individual species respond to climate change differently, some will be adversely affected by climate change whereas others may benefit. Successfully managing species in a changing climate will require an understanding of which species will be most and least impacted by climate change. Although several approaches have been proposed for assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change, it is unclear whether these approaches are likely to produce similar results. In this study, we compared the relative vulnerabilities to climate change of 76 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and trees based on three different approaches to assessing vulnerability....
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Ecological systems are already responding to modern changes in climate. Many species are moving in directions and at rates that correspond with recent climatic change. Understanding how species distributions and abundances are likely to be altered can inform management and planning activities resulting in more robust management. We projected climate-driven changes in the abundances and distributions of 31 focal bird species in Oregon and Washington using the latest downscaled CMIP5 climate projections and corresponding vegetation model outputs. We mapped these future projections and integrated them into an existing web-based tool (http://data.pointblue.org/apps/nwcsc/) to allow managers and planners to access and...
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Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing natural resource management. The disruptions it is causing require that we change the way we consider conservation and resource management in order to ensure the future of habitats, species, and human communities. Practitioners often struggle with how to identify and prioritize specific climate adaptation actions (CAAs). Management actions may have a higher probability of being successful if they are informed by available scientific knowledge and findings; a systematic review process provides a mechanism to scientifically assess management questions. By evaluating specific actions on scientific knowledge and findings, we may be able to increase management...
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The goals of this project were to: (1) produce a state-of-the-art assessment and synthesis of climate change projections, impacts, vulnerabilities, adaptive capacity, and prospects for mitigation and adaptation actions in the Southwest in support of the regional contribution to the National Climate Assessment; (2) develop an inventory of federal partners and stakeholders involved with climate adaptation programs, and (3) forge stronger bonds between the DOI-SW CSC, the three NOAA-RISAs in the Southwest, and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.
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Climate change is projected to cause earlier and less snowmelt, potentially reducing water availability for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and for municipal and agricultural water supplies. However, if forested landscapes can be managed to retain snow longer, some of these environmental and financial impacts may be mitigated. Results from our research team demonstrate that in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), opening dense forest canopies through creating forest gaps will generally lead to more snow accumulation and later melt (i.e., up to 13 weeks later). However, under certain conditions, such as locations on ridges with high wind speeds and sunny south-facing slopes, the snow that accumulated in the forest is...
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In the Pacific Northwest, land and resource managers strive to make decisions that benefit both natural and human communities, balancing ecological and economic demands including wildlife habitat, forest products, forage for grazing, clean water, and wildfire control. Climate change adds a layer of complexity to the planning process because of its uncertain effects on the environment. In order to make sound decisions, managers need information about how climate change will affect wildlife habitat, both on its own and in conjunction with management actions. The goal of this project was to explore how future climate may interact with management alternatives to shape wildlife habitat across large landscapes. Scientists...
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Ongoing and future climate change throughout Alaska has the potential to affect terrestrial ecosystems and the services that they provide to the people of Alaska and the nation. These services include the gathering of food and fiber by Alaskan communities, the importance of ecosystems to recreation, cultural, and spiritual activities of people in Alaska, and the way that land cover and vegetation in ecosystems affect temperature and water flow (runoff, flooding etc.) throughout the state. Assessments of the effects of climate change on these “ecosystem services” have been hindered by a lack of tools (e.g. computer models) capable of forecasting future landscapes in a changing climate while taking into account numerous...
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The goal of this project was to: (a) archive the relevant AR5 model output data for the southwest region; (b) downscale daily temperature and precipitation to 12 X 12 km cell spatial resolution over the Southwest; (c) assess the precision (degree of agreement) of the simulated models; (d) assess the direction and magnitude of change in projections between AR4 and AR5, as well as assess projections of key extreme climatic events (i.e., extreme drought, extreme seasonal precipitation, extreme high and low temperature events); and (e) assess critical ecosystem impacts (i.e., climate water deficit and fire; hydrological condition of major river systems; impacts on highly valued species).
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The Schitsu'umsh people (Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Idaho) have an intimate relationship with their landscape and a rich knowledge of how to interact with the environment in a way that benefits human, plant, and animal communities alike. Such knowledge and practices can provide valuable insight as to how tribal and non-tribal resource managers, communities, and governments can best respond to the effects of a changing climate. This project was a pilot effort to collect and translate indigenous knowledge and practices into shareable formats. Researchers developed documents, images, lesson plans, and innovative, interactive 3-D virtual reality simulations that effectively convey Schitsu’umsh knowledge and practices and...
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The Colorado River is the dominant water source for the southwestern United States, crossing through seven states before reaching Mexico. The river supplies water to approximately 36 million people, irrigates nearly six million acres of farmland within and beyond the basin, and contributes an estimated 26 billion dollars each year to the region’s recreational economy. Yet the Colorado River’s water supply is already fully allocated, meaning that the economic and environmental health of the region is closely tied to the river’s streamflow. Climate projections for the Southwest show a future marked by chronic drought and substantial reductions in streamflow. The region has already been impacted by climate change,...
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This project links climate, hydrological, and ecological changes over the next 30 years in a Great Basin watershed. In recent years, climate variability on annual and decadal time scales has been recognized as greater than commonly perceived with increasing impacts on ecosystems and available water resources. Changes in vegetation distribution, composition and productivity resulting from climate change affect plant water use, which in turn can alter stream flow, groundwater and eventually available water resources. To better understand these links, project researchers implemented two computer-based numeric models in the Cleve Creek watershed in the Schell Creek Range, east of Ely, Nevada. The application of the...
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Wildfires are one of the greatest threats to human infrastructure and the ecosystem services humans value in the western US, but are also necessary in fire-adapted ecosystems. Wildfire activity is widely projected to increase in response to climate change in the Northwest, but we currently lack a comprehensive understanding of what this increase will look like or what its impacts will be on a variety of ecological and hydrologic systems. This project addressed one critical part of those impacts: the islands of unburned vegetation within wildfires. Unburned islands occur naturally as wildfires burn across landscapes, and are important habitat refuges for species -- places where plants and animals survive the fire...


map background search result map search result map Climate, Land Management and Future Wildlife Habitat in the Pacific Northwest Understanding Climate Change Vulnerability in the Pacific Northwest: A Comparison of Three Approaches Modeling Effects of Climate Change on Cheatgrass Die-Off Areas in the Northern Great Basin Improving Projections of Hydrology in the Pacific Northwest Support for the Second Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference Assessment of Available Climate Models and Projections for the Southwest Region Synthesis of Current Science and Assessment of Science Needs for Adaptation in the Southwest Development of the Alaska Integrated Ecosystem Model to Illustrate Future Landscape Change From Icefield to Ocean: Glacier Change Impacts to Alaska’s Coastal Ecosystems Projecting Future Streamflow in the Colorado River Basin Understanding and Projecting Changes in Climate, Hydrology, and Ecology in the Great Basin for the Next 30 Years Disappearing Refugia: Identifying Trends and Resilience in Unburned Islands under Climate Change Moving from Awareness to Action: Informing Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments and Adaptation Planning for Idaho and Montana National Forests Visualizing the Future Abundance and Distribution of Birds in the Northwest Forest Management Tools to Maximize Snow Retention under Climate Change Collecting and Applying Schitsu’umsh Indigenous Knowledge and Practices to Climate Change Decision Making The Available Science Assessment Process (ASAP): Evaluating the Science behind Climate Adaptation Actions Integrated Scenarios Tools: Improving the Accessibility of the Integrated Scenarios Data Relations Among Cheatgrass, Fire, Climate, and Sensitive-Status Birds across the Great Basin Can We Conserve Wetlands Under a Changing Climate? Mapping Wetland Hydrology in the Columbia Plateau Understanding and Projecting Changes in Climate, Hydrology, and Ecology in the Great Basin for the Next 30 Years Modeling Effects of Climate Change on Cheatgrass Die-Off Areas in the Northern Great Basin Moving from Awareness to Action: Informing Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments and Adaptation Planning for Idaho and Montana National Forests Can We Conserve Wetlands Under a Changing Climate? Mapping Wetland Hydrology in the Columbia Plateau Collecting and Applying Schitsu’umsh Indigenous Knowledge and Practices to Climate Change Decision Making Climate, Land Management and Future Wildlife Habitat in the Pacific Northwest Visualizing the Future Abundance and Distribution of Birds in the Northwest Forest Management Tools to Maximize Snow Retention under Climate Change Support for the Second Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference The Available Science Assessment Process (ASAP): Evaluating the Science behind Climate Adaptation Actions Integrated Scenarios Tools: Improving the Accessibility of the Integrated Scenarios Data Disappearing Refugia: Identifying Trends and Resilience in Unburned Islands under Climate Change Relations Among Cheatgrass, Fire, Climate, and Sensitive-Status Birds across the Great Basin Projecting Future Streamflow in the Colorado River Basin Assessment of Available Climate Models and Projections for the Southwest Region Improving Projections of Hydrology in the Pacific Northwest Synthesis of Current Science and Assessment of Science Needs for Adaptation in the Southwest From Icefield to Ocean: Glacier Change Impacts to Alaska’s Coastal Ecosystems Understanding Climate Change Vulnerability in the Pacific Northwest: A Comparison of Three Approaches Development of the Alaska Integrated Ecosystem Model to Illustrate Future Landscape Change