New Product Showcases Implications of Climate Scenarios for Badlands National Park Resource Management

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Researchers at the North Central CASC, the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, and the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program developed a product to identify potential climate impacts in Badlands National Park.

Bison in Badlands National Park

Bison in the grasslands of Badlands National Park. Credit: Brian Kenner (NPS)

One of the biggest challenges facing resource managers today is not knowing exactly when, where, and how climate change effects will unfold. While scientific models can be used to predict the types of impacts that climate change might have on a landscape, uncertainty remains surrounding factors such as how quickly changes will occur and how specific resources will respond. To plan for this uncertain future, managers have begun to use a tool known as scenario planning. In this approach, climate projections that represent a range of plausible future climate scenarios for a particular area are considered by resource managers.

USGS researchers from the North Central CASC and the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center recently collaborated with the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program to develop a new product that communicates the results from a collaborative effort—involving resource managers, subject-matter experts, and a larger climate change adaptation team—to identify potential climate impacts and management responses in Badlands National Park. The researchers used scenario planning and ecological simulation modeling to anticipate management challenges and identify options for Badlands National Park and adjacent federal and tribal lands in the coming decades (through 2050). The ecological simulation models help track complexities of the real world and serve as virtual laboratories for asking “what if…?” questions about how systems might respond under different scenarios. Insights from this collaborative effort will help inform resource managers who are tasked with prioritizing investments that better position the park to meet the challenges posed by climate change.

This work was undertaken as part of a larger North Central CASC funded project aimed at developing a process for creating climate summaries that can be used for local scenario planning and to pilot an approach for enhancing scenario planning through simulation modeling. Not only has this project helped to improve climate adaptation efforts in the northern Great Plains region, but it also has resulted in a new, integrative approach for identifying how climate change might affect key resources of management concern at a local-scale and what actions can be taken to protect these resources – a method that could be applied to management units across the country.