Interior’s Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at CSU-hosted North Central Climate Science Center

Note to Reporters: Descriptions of the funded projects for the North Central CSC are available here.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced this week that the Interior’s North Central Climate Science Center, hosted at Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources, is awarding more than $1 million for collaborative research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change. All of the projects included will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and how management actions can be taken to help offset such change.

The funded projects will build on the foundational science areas of the center, provide science to natural resource decision-makers, and will build climate science capacity in the region. The NC CSC’s foundational science areas include physical climate, ecological impacts, and adaptation and mitigation strategies. Collectively they provide information needed by regional resource managers to better understand potential impacts and to develop adaptation strategies for a broad range of natural, cultural, energy and other resource-management activities.

"Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country," said Secretary Jewell. "These new studies, and others that are ongoing, will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change."

The three decision-based projects supported by the new funding include:

Informing Implementation of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee’s (GYCC) Whitebark Pine (WBP) Strategy Based on Climate Sciences, Ecological Forecasting, and Valuation of WBP-Related Ecosystem Services: Whitebark pine is a declining keystone species in the Rocky Mountains, providing food and cover or nesting habitat for many birds and mammals. This project will use climate science and ecological modeling to forecast whitebark habitat suitability across the Greater Yellowstone area under different climate scenarios and to provide recommendations for management actions. This research will be applicable to other tree species in the region undergoing climate change-related die-offs.

Natural Resource Management Decision-Making under Climate Uncertainty: Building Social-Ecological Resilience in Southwestern Colorado: This project will facilitate climate change adaptation that contributes to social-ecological resilience, ecosystem/species conservation, and sustainable human communities in Southwestern Colorado, an area where climate change is causing higher temperatures, more frequent and longer droughts, early snowmelt, more intense and larger fires and storms, and invasive species spreading. The study will focus especially on social and economic factors involved in responding to climate change.

Surrogate Species for Wetland-Dependent Birds in the Prairie Pothole Region: Selection, Evaluation, and Management Application in the Face of Climate Change: The Prairie Pothole region contains millions of acres of wetlands that provide habitat for breeding and migrating birds. Project researchers will test whether waterfowl are effective representatives, or surrogates, for other wetland-dependent birds by predicting how climate change will affect habitat suitability for waterfowl and other species. The team will also consider how climate change is likely to affect land-use patterns and agricultural conversion risk, and use these predictions to identify areas of the landscape where both waterfowl and other species are expected to have suitable habitat in the future. This research will help managers efficiently direct their resources toward conserving areas that will provide habitat to a broad suite of species.

The capacity-building funding will support a tribal workshop on the nexus between climate change and renewable energy, a major development focus for several tribes in the region. It will also support observations of changing phenology (timing of life-history events for plants and animals). This will include up to three tribal college interns observing and recording the phenology of culturally significant plants as well as the deployment of nine "phenocams" (as part of the larger national phenocam program). These phenocams will be deployed in conjunction with USGS’s AmericaView program.

"The funding for the projects in 2013 was very competitive," said Jeffrey Morisette, director of the North Central CSC. "We had more than 50 proposals and nearly all of them represented excellent ideas to address critical climate-change issues. The highly competitive pool allowed us to pick exceptional projects that will not only provide valuable insight on specific key regional issues, but will also help build tools that will power the CSC’s research in the future."

Each of the Department of the Interior’s eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, federal agencies, landscape conservation cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs, and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists from the universities that comprise the North Central CSC, from USGS science centers, and in coordination with other partners in the region such as the states, the Western Water Assessment (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Integrated Science and Assessment program), the USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub, Tribal Nations and Colleges, and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network, and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior’s strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The North Central Climate Science Center is a consortium of nine institutions: Colorado State University; University of Colorado; Colorado School of Mines; University of Nebraska, Lincoln; Montana State University; University of Wyoming; University of Montana; Kansas State University, and Iowa State University. The CSC conducts climate change science for most of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, part of Minnesota and Iowa.

Useful links:

North Central CSC Projects:

Full list of funded projects for all eight DOI Climate Science Centers:

Details on the three decision-based projects:

Explanation of the foundational science areas: