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Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5103

Natural Resource Mitigation, Adaptation and Research Needs Related to Climate Change in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert: Workshop Summary

By Debra L. Hughson, National Park Service, David E. Busch, U.S. Geological Survey, Scott Davis, Bureau of Land Management, Sean P. Finn, U.S. Geological Survey, Steve Caicco, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Paul S.J. Verburg, Desert Research Institute

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (6.5 MB)Executive Summary

This report synthesizes the knowledge, opinions, and concerns of many Federal and State land managers, scientists, stakeholders, and partners from a workshop, held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on April 20–22, 2010. Land managers, research scientists, and resource specialists identified common concerns regarding the potential effects of climate change on public lands and natural resources in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert and developed recommendations for mitigation, adaptation, and research needs. Water and, conversely, the effects of drought emerged as a common theme in all breakout sessions on terrestrial and aquatic species at risk, managing across boundaries, monitoring, and ecosystem services. Climate change models for the southwestern deserts predict general warming and drying with increasing precipitation variability year to year. Scientists noted that under these changing conditions the past may no longer be a guide to the future in which managers envision increasing conflicts between human water uses and sustaining ecosystems. Increasing environmental stress also is expected as a consequence of shifting ecosystem boundaries and species distributions, expansion of non-native species, and decoupling of biotic mutualisms, leading to increasingly unstable biologic communities. Managers uniformly expressed a desire to work across management and agency boundaries at a landscape scale but conceded that conflicting agency missions and budgetary constraints often impede collaboration. More and better science is needed to cope with the effects of climate change but, perhaps even more important is the application of science to management issues using the methods of adaptive management based on long-term monitoring to assess the merits of management actions. Access to data is essential for science-based land management. Basic inventories, spatial databases, baseline condition assessments, data quality assurance, and data sharing were identified as top information priorities by all participants at this workshop. Optimizing the utility of ecosystem monitoring data will require standardizing monitoring protocols across agencies. Better communication among researchers and managers and cooperation through partnerships to manage resources across boundaries were emphasized as necessary for adapting to changing climatic conditions. However, even these strategies may be insufficient unless policy mandates, agency missions, and funding are coordinated at a high level.

First posted August 16, 2011

For additional information contact:
Director - Southwest Climate Science Center
USGS - Pacific Southwest Area
3020 State University Drive East
CSUS - Modoc Hall 3005
Sacramento, CA 95819

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Suggested citation:

Hughson, D.L., Busch, D.E., Davis, Scott, Finn, S.P., Caicco, Steve, and Verburg, P.S.J., 2011, Natural resource mitigation, adaptation and research needs related to climate change in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert: Workshop Summary: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5103, 34 p.


Executive Summary



Breakout Session Themes


References Cited


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