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Prairies were once widespread across North America, but are now one of the most endangered and least protected ecosystems in the world. Agriculture and residential development have reduced once extensive prairies into a patchwork of remnant prairies and “surrogate” grasslands (e.g., hayfields, planted pastures). Grassland ecosystems and many grassland-dependent birds are also particularly vulnerable to rapid shifts in climate and associated changes in drought and extreme weather. The Central Flyway is a vast bird migration route that comprises more than half of the continental U.S., and extends from Central America to Canada, and harbors the greatest diversity of grassland birds in North America. Throughout this...
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Freshwater mussels are an important component of freshwater ecosystems. They can filter a large amount of water, affecting both water clarity and water chemistry. Their shells provide physical habitat for other organisms, they re-direct necessary nutrients to the bottom of the water column, and their excreted material can enhance the growth of algae and macroinvertebrates. However, dramatic declines of freshwater mussels have occurred due to habitat loss, destruction and modification, pollution, and invasive species. One mussel species in Texas (Texas Hornshell) has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and several other species are candidates for listing. Changes in precipitation patterns...
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The Ogallala Aquifer lies beneath 111 million acres of land in Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. The aquifer provides water for approximately 1.9 million people and has been instrumental in the development of the robust agriculture economy of the Great Plains region. It is also vitally important to the ecology of the region, serving as a critical source of groundwater and sustaining creeks and streams that would otherwise run dry during periods of water scarcity. However, the various social, economic, and ecological challenges of managing this aquifer are expected to increase with climate change as hotter, drier summers exacerbate already unsustainable water demands....
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Water management in the middle portion of the Rio Grande Basin (between Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico and Presidio, Texas) is challenging because water demand has continued to increase over time despite limited river water and dropping groundwater levels. While urban and agricultural users can cope with frequent droughts by using a combination of river water and pumping groundwater, little to no water reaches living river ecosystems in this region. Improving this situation requires a good understanding of river water and groundwater availability, now and in the future, as well as advantages and disadvantages of water management options to sustain these ecosystems. In particular, there is a need to determine...
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The loss or decline of culturally significant plants is a major concern for many tribal managers. Culturally significant plants are essential to many aspects of life for tribal members, including medicine, ceremonial practices, and traditional food dishes. In many parts of the U.S., droughts, floods, and changes in the timing of frost events are stressing these plants and in some cases have led to decreases in their areas of suitable habitat or a reduction in their resistance to disease. The goal of this project is to hold a research symposium that will bring together tribal resource managers and scientists from a range of disciplines in the South Central region to identify which culturally significant species...
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Science produced by the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC) network must ideally be scientifically sound, relevant to a management decision, fair and respectful of stakeholders’ divergent values, and produced through a process of iterative collaboration between scientists and managers. However, research that aims to produce usable knowledge and collaborative approaches that boost usability are not common in academia or federal research programs. As a result, neither the process of creating such research nor the impacts to stakeholders are well understood or well documented. This lack of attention to the processes and impacts of collaborative scientist-stakeholder knowledge production also...
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Led by universities of the South Central CASC, this project builds on the successes of three prior workshops to mentor a cohort of early-career environmental professionals in the South Central U.S. to serve as part of the next generation of USGS leaders and partners. The workshop objectives are to: (1) develop the participants’ knowledge, leadership skills, and interdisciplinary collaboration with an eye toward filling future USGS (or partner organization) positions; (2) introduce participants to the goals, structure, and unique research-related challenges of the South Central CASC and the larger CASC network; (3) guide participants to discuss their research beyond their disciplinary niche and with managers across...
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Drought events have cost the U.S. nearly $245 billion since 1980, with costs ranging from $2 to $44 billion in any given year. However, these socio-economic losses are not the only impacts of drought. Ecosystems, fish, wildlife, and plants also suffer, and these types of drought impacts are becoming more commonplace. Further, ecosystems that recover from drought are now doing so under different climate conditions than they have experienced in the past few centuries. As temperature and precipitation patterns change, “transformational drought”, or drought events that can permanently and irreversibly alter ecosystems – such as forests converting to grasslands – are a growing threat. This type of drought has cascading...
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The onset of spring, represented by first leaf and first bloom, is a critical indicator of the health and growth of ecosystems. Studies have shown that the timing of first leaf and first bloom has shifted to earlier in the year across the U.S., impacting species that time their own life history events based on spring onset. False springs occur when temperatures briefly warm and “trick” plants into opening their buds, only to be followed by a hard freeze that can kill the young, sensitive buds. These events can cause significant damage to ecosystems as well as agriculture. For example, a false spring in the Southeast in 2007 caused $2 billion in damage to crops. Some projections of future climate conditions have...


    map background search result map search result map Assessing Future Changes to Spring Phenology and False Springs in the South Central United States Approaches to Evaluate Actionable Science for Climate Adaptation Assessing the Impacts of Rapid Rainfall Shifts (“Whiplashes” and “Boomerangs”) on Freshwater Mussels in Central Texas State of the Science Synthesis on Transformational Drought: Understanding Drought’s Potential to Transform Ecosystems Across the Country Strategies for Reducing the Vulnerability of Grassland Birds to Climate Change within the Central Flyway Regional Graduate Student, Post-Doc, and Early Career Researcher Training IV Understanding New Paradigms for “Environmental Flows” and Water Allocation in the Middle Rio Grande River Basin in a Changing Climate Organizing and Synthesizing Ogallala Aquifer Data to Facilitate Research and Resource Management Research Symposium: Culturally Significant Plants and Climate Change Understanding New Paradigms for “Environmental Flows” and Water Allocation in the Middle Rio Grande River Basin in a Changing Climate Assessing the Impacts of Rapid Rainfall Shifts (“Whiplashes” and “Boomerangs”) on Freshwater Mussels in Central Texas Regional Graduate Student, Post-Doc, and Early Career Researcher Training IV Research Symposium: Culturally Significant Plants and Climate Change Assessing Future Changes to Spring Phenology and False Springs in the South Central United States Organizing and Synthesizing Ogallala Aquifer Data to Facilitate Research and Resource Management Strategies for Reducing the Vulnerability of Grassland Birds to Climate Change within the Central Flyway Approaches to Evaluate Actionable Science for Climate Adaptation State of the Science Synthesis on Transformational Drought: Understanding Drought’s Potential to Transform Ecosystems Across the Country