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Northern Plains Contributions: Vulnerability Assessment of US Agriculture and Forests developed by the USDA Climate Hubs

The USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub (NPCH) contributed, as coauthors, to three articles in as special issue of the journal of Climatic Change on the "Vulnerability Assessment of US Agriculture and Forests developed by the USDA Climate Hubs" (January 2018, Volume 146, Issue 1 - 2, pp 19 - 32). In this special issue, you will learn about agriculture and working lands throughout the ten Climate Hub regions. More specifically, you will learn about challenges and opportunities that agricultural producers and working land managers face under a changing climate, and adaptation strategies that might help them to be more resilient to these changes. Titles and authors for the three special issue articles about the Northern Plains, along with a few sentences from each of the abstracts, are provided below. You can access the full abstract and each of the articles by clicking on the hyperlinked text at the end of each abstract summary.


Vulnerability of grazing and confined livestock in the Northern Great Plains to projected mid- and late-twenty-first century climate

Authors: Justin Derner, David Briske, Matt Reeves, Tami Brown-Brandl, Miranda Meehan, Dana Blumenthal, William Travis, David Augustine, Hailey Wilmer, Derek Scasta, John Hendrickson, Jerry Volesky, Laura Edwards, and Dannele Peck

Cattle standing in snow in western Wyoming. Photo Credit: Tiffany OlsonThe Northern Great Plains (NGP) region of the USA—which comprises Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska—is a largely rural area that provides numerous ecosystem services, including livestock products, cultural services, and conservation of biological diversity. The region contains 25% of the Nation’s beef cattle and approximately one-third of the confined beef cattle, as well as the largest remaining native prairie in the US—the Northern Mixedgrass Prairie. With rising atmospheric CO2, the NGP is projected to experience warmer and longer growing seasons, greater climatic variability, and more extreme events (e.g., increased occurrence of large precipitation events). These climatic changes may affect livestock production both directly via physiological impacts on animals and indirectly via modifications to forage, invasion of undesirable plants, and increased exposure to parasites. This raises concerns about the vulnerability of grazing livestock operations and confined livestock operations to projected changes in mid- (2050) and late- (2085) twenty-first century climate.

Click here to read the full abstract and to access the article.


Native and agricultural forests at risk to a changing climate in the Northern Plains

Authors: Linda A. Joyce, Gary Bentrup, Antony S. Cheng, Peter Kolb, Michele Schoeneberger, and Justin Derner

Forest in western Wyoming with fall colors. Photo Credit: Windy Kelley, University of Wyoming Extension

Native and agricultural forests in the Northern Plains provide ecosystem services that benefit human society—diversified agricultural systems, forest-based products, and rural vitality. The impacts of recent trends in temperature and disturbances are impairing the delivery of these services. Climate change projections identify future stressors of greater impact, placing at risk crops, soils, livestock, biodiversity, and agricultural and forest-based livelihoods. While these native and agricultural forests are also a viable option for providing mitigation and adaptation services to the Northern Plains, they themselves must be managed in terms of climate change risks. Because agricultural forests are planted systems, the primary approaches for reducing risks are through design, plant selection and management. For native forests, management, natural disturbances, and collaboration of multiple ownerships will be needed to address key risks.

Click here to read the full abstract and to access the article.


Vulnerability of crops and croplands in the US Northern Plains to predicted climate change

Authors: Brian J. Wienhold, Merle F. Vigil, John R. Hendrickson, and Justin D. Derner

Corn variety trial in no-till system in Nebraska. Photo Credit: David Keto, University of Wyoming ExtensionThe states of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming comprise the Northern Great Plains region of the USA. The soil and water resources contained in this region have historically supported highly diverse and productive agriculture enterprises that provide a significant proportion of the food, feed, and oilseed for the nation. The region also provides ecological services that influence air, water, and soil quality along with biological diversity. Combined with livestock production and a biofuel industry, crop production forms an integrated system that can offer producers flexibility in management decisions. Projected climatic changes for this region include increasing atmospheric CO2, a longer, warmer growing season, and increased precipitation, likely received in more frequent extreme events. These changes will impact soil and water resources in the region and create opportunities and challenges for land managers. The objectives of this paper are to describe anticipated impacts of projected mid-(2050) and late-(2085) climatic changes on crop production systems in the Northern Great Plains and provide adaptation strategies that should be developed to take advantage of positive and mitigate negative changes.

Click here to read the full abstract and to access the article.