Climate Adaptation Science is Comprehensive, Landscape-level Research
Climate change is a major 21st-century challenge for science and society. In the American West, changing climate is increasing the threats of drought and fire. Such threats require both new science-based information and effective teams of scientists, managers, policy-makers and other citizens who can use that information to solve problems. Project research will advance understanding of changing hydroclimate (drought and flood), fire regimes (frequency, area burned, and severity), land cover (range shifts and invasions), social and economic effects, and potential adaptations (see examples below).
Water- and Drought-scapes
Adapting the built-and-natural environments of arid and semi-arid ecosystems.
Water availability has significantly influenced development in the Western US. A legacy of cultural preferences, antiquated policies, and aging water infrastructure are confronted by population growth and prolonged and frequent drought. How would an extreme drought or anomalously short snow season impact terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, water infrastructure and distribution, the agricultural and tourism-based economy? How can we ensure reliable water for humans and the environment? And what are the most vulnerable parts of the coupled human-environment system?
Integrating forest, fire, fish, and society for adaptation in the Interior West.
Many landscapes in the Intermountain West are characterized by disturbance (i.e., discrete events such as wildfire, flash floods, or mass deaths from pests or pathogens that can disrupt the structure of an ecosystem, community, or population and change resource availability or the physical environment. Climate extremes may cause interacting cascades of disturbance, and disturbed landscapes may have elevated vulnerability to changing climate extremes. For example, drought-related plant mortality may be a mega-disturbance that resets succession and releases resources for new generations of plants, but plant establishment and landforms both are vulnerable to post-disturbance conditions that can substantially reform the physical template of a landscape and may alter the long-term trajectory of an ecosystem.