Case Study Workshops are complete!

We have now completed all four case study workshops. Through these workshops, we met with over 50 managers representing 9 federal, state and local agencies and 9 non-governmental organizations. Managers traveled from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and BC, Canada to participate.

We learned a lot from these workshops and hope that the participants got as much out of it as we did. Our first objective was to understand how the data generated from the Vulnerability Assessment could be used to facilitate climate adaptation planning in each landscape. While most participants had heard generalities about projected climate changes for their region, they found it helpful and informative to actually see the data. In particular, understanding seasonal changes and learning about a variety of climate variables including snow water equivalent and frost free days was particularly informative for many participants.

At the workshops, participants broke into groups and developed conceptual models of particular management targets (habitats or resources of interest). They then integrated climate changes into the conceptual models, which allowed them to explicitly represent how climate influences specific aspect of their system of interest. The conceptual models then helped to facilitate discussion of potential actions managers could take to start preparing for climate change.

Here are a few examples of the actions that came up during the adaptation planning discussions:

  • Improve mapping and understanding of sea level rise – identify most vulnerable locations in order to plan for cultural and recreational resources (BC Parks)
  • Monitor/improve understanding of how climate change will impact agricultural production, and subsequently habitat conversion and water withdrawals (Idaho, Willamette Valley, Columbia Plateau)
  • Modernizing the grazing permitting process to benefit sage grouse habitat (Idaho).
  • Monitor/improve understanding of how precipitation and evapotranspiration affect depressional wetlands (Columbia Plateau).

Many of the conservation actions identified are ones managers are doing already. However, where conservation actions are focused and which are emphasized is likely to be affected by climate change (all workshops).

Our second objective was to understand how climate data products could be improved in order to be more useful to managers. The workshops were very helpful in identifying the challenges managers currently face in using these data products.

Understanding and managing uncertainty remains perhaps the most challenging aspect of climate adaptation planning. Climate projections for all case study regions showed some level of variability, especially in precipitation. In addition, the projected changes for vertebrates, tree species, and vegetation systems also showed significant variability. In particular, different types of models are likely to provide different projections of the future. Managers need help interpreting what these various projections mean and how they can still inform planning and action, despite potential disagreement. Creating narrative scenarios of a variety of different potential futures may be one way of helping managers understand and communicate divergent model results.

Participants repeatedly highlighted several areas where they would like more information:

    • How climate change will interact with existing threats such as invasive species and fire regimes
    • How specific climate variables impact key components of ecological systems
    • Knowing which species will move in will be as important as knowing which species are going to shift out of a particular management area

For more information about the workshops, please contact Julia Michalak.