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Open-File Report 2011–1033

Global Change Strategic Science Planning Team

USGS Global Change Science Strategy: A Framework for Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use Change

By Virginia R. Burkett, Ione L. Taylor, Jayne Belnap, Thomas M. Cronin, Michael D. Dettinger, Eldrich L. Frazier, John W. Haines, David A. Kirtland, Thomas R. Loveland, Paul C.D. Milly, Robin O’Malley, and Robert S. Thompson

Public Review Draft will be posted for a 60-day comment period ending April 8, 2011.
To provide comments, please click below, then go to section marked "Currently Open for Comment":
Thumbnail of front cover and link to report - USGS Global Change Science Strategy: A Framework for Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use Change (2.28 MB)


This U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Global Change Science Strategy expands on the Climate Variability and Change science component of the USGS 2007 Science Strategy, “Facing Tomorrow’s Challenges: USGS Science in the Coming Decade” (U.S. Geological Survey, 2007). Here we embrace the broad definition of global change provided in the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 (Public Law 101–606,104 Stat. 3096–3104)—“Changes in the global environment (including alterations in climate, land productivity, oceans or other water resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems) that may alter the capacity of the Earth to sustain life”—with a focus on climate and land-use change.

There are three major characteristics of this science strategy. First, it addresses the science required to broadly inform global change policy, while emphasizing the needs of natural-resource managers and reflecting the role of the USGS as the science provider for the Department of the Interior and other resource-management agencies. Second, the strategy identifies core competencies, noting 10 critical capabilities and strengths the USGS uses to overcome key problem areas. We highlight those areas in which the USGS is a science leader, recognizing the strong partnerships and effective collaboration that are essential to address complex global environmental challenges. Third, it uses a query-based approach listing key research questions that need to be addressed to create an agenda for hypothesis-driven global change science organized under six strategic goals. Overall, the strategy starts from where we are, provides a vision for where we want to go, and then describes high-priority strategic actions, including outcomes, products, and partnerships that can get us there.

Global change science is a well-defined research field with strong linkages to the ecosystems, water, energy and minerals, natural hazards, and environmental health components of the USGS Science Strategy (2007). When science strategies that cover these other components are developed, coordinated implementation will be necessary to achieve Bureau-level synergies and optimize capabilities and expertise.

In October 2010, USGS realigned its management and budget structure to implement its 2007 Science Strategy. The new organizational structure, in which “Global Change” is one of seven key mission areas, lends itself to the advancement of the established six strategic goals. USGS global change science is formally represented by the “Climate and Land-Use Change” Mission Area in the FY 2012 budget (USGS, 2011).

This plan was developed by the USGS Global Change Science Strategy Planning Team (SSPT) appointed by the USGS Director on March 4, 2010 and charged with developing a Global Change Science Strategy for the coming decade (McNutt, 2010). USGS managers and science staff are the main audience for this science strategy. This document is also intended to serve as the foundation for consistent USGS collaboration and communication with partners and stakeholders.

First posted February 8, 2011

For additional information contact:
Virginia R. Burkett
U.S. Geological Survey
540 North Courthouse Street
Many, Louisiana 71449
Phone: 318-256-5628
Fax: 318-256-5540

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Acrobat® Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:
Burkett, V.R. and others, 2011, Public review draft—USGS global change science strategy: A framework for understanding and responding to climate and land-use change: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1033, 32 p., at


About this Report

Executive Summary


Science Goals and Objectives

Monitoring: A Critical Component of Global Change Science and Adaptive Resource Management

Communicating Science to Society—Services, Products, and Delivery

Summary—Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use Change

References Cited

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