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Friday's Findings - November 6 2020

October 28, 2020
Ecosystems Mission Area and Powell Center: 

Opportunities for Ecological Forecasting to Improve Natural Resource Management

Date: November 6, 2020 from 2-2:30 p.m. eastern time

John Bradford, Research Ecologist, USGS Southwest Biological Science Center

Jake Weltzin, Acting Senior Science Advisor, USGS Ecosystems Mission Area

Webinar Link
Call-in Option: 1 202-640-1187
Conference ID: 387 327 1

Native and invasive plants in desert southwest.
Native and invasive plants in desert southwest.  (Credit: Molly McCormick, USGS. Public domain.)

Summary: Natural resource managers are coping with rapid changes in both environmental conditions and ecosystems. Enabled by recent advances in data collection and assimilation, short-term ecological forecasting may be a powerful tool to help resource managers anticipate impending changes in ecosystem dynamics and use that information to minimize the adverse effects of ecological stressors and optimize the effectiveness of management actions. To explore the potential for ecological forecasting to enhance natural resource management, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) convened a workshop with participants from several Federal agencies and all mission areas within the USGS.

The workshop generated several important outcomes that are described in a recent report.  One outcome was a broad agreement among participants that short-term ecological forecasting—on the order of days to years into the future—has tremendous potential to improve the quality and timeliness of information available to guide resource management decisions. Participants specified numerous critical tools for addressing natural resource management concerns in the 21st century that could be enhanced by ecological forecasting. Workshop outcomes also included a repeatable framework for evaluating the potential value of a forecast product for enhancing resource management and a small set of promising forecast products that illustrate the value of ecological forecasting for informing resource management, and insights about potential obstacles and next steps. Ecological forecasting is already being utilized sporadically within USGS and partners and this workshop demonstrates the potential value of building a community of practice that strengthens those existing efforts and promotes the application of ecological forecasting to inform a broader suite of management decisions.

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