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Interior’s Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the North Central Climate Science Center
Helping Ecosystems, Plants, Animals, and Fish Cope with Climate Change
Released: 12/19/2013 11:00:00 AM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communications and Publishing
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119
Reston, VA 20192
Jeffrey Morisette 1-click interview
Phone: 303-968-8986

Marisa Lubeck 1-click interview
Phone: 303-526-6694

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

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior's North Central Climate Science Center is awarding slightly more than one million dollars to universities and other partners for 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.

"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 funded projects include one project building on the foundational science areas of the center, three decision-based studies and one providing capacity building support in the region; all will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and how management actions can be taken to help offset such change.

The NC CSC's foundational science areas include physical climate, ecological impacts, and adaptation and mitigation strategies. Collectively they providing information needed by regional resource managers to better understand potential impacts and adaptation strategies for a broad range of natural, cultural, energy and other resource-management activities.

The three decision-base projects include:

  • Identifying actions that can be taken to reduce the negative impacts of climate change 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 spreading invasive species. The study will focus especially on social and economic factors involved in responding to climate change.
  • Informing implementation of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee’s Whitebark Pine Strategy. 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 Great 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.
  • Understanding the effects of climate change on bird species in the Prairie Pothole region, which contains millions of wetlands that provide habitat for breeding and migrating birds. The study will also examine how climate change is likely to affect land-use patterns and agricultural conversion risk, and use this information to identify areas where waterfowl and other wetland bird species will likely have suitable habitat in the future.

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. While it was difficult to select only a few, 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 – like modeling systems linked to regional supercomputing nodes – 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 hosted by a consortium of nine institutions: Colorado State University - Fort Collins, 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:

Department of Interior links:
North Central CSC Projects
North Central CSC Homepage
Full list of funded projects for all eight DOI Climate Science Centers

North Central Climate Science Center University Consortium links:
Details on the three decision-based projects
Explanation of the foundational science areas
The NC CSC’s capacity building projects

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