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Drought in the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands

In August 2018, a workshop was held in Hawaii to discuss the impacts of drought on ecosystems, agriculture, and the water supply in the USAPI, as well as data needs and potential future research directions.

The U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) includes two U.S. territories (American Samoa and Guam), the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and three independent countries (the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau). The geology of the USAPI varies greatly – from volcanic high islands, to low coral atolls. Native ecosystems, agricultural systems, hydrology, and interactions with the ocean are remarkably diverse. The USAPI is especially vulnerable to increased warming and drought conditions from climate change and other interacting stressors, such as human-induced wildfire. Communities in the USAPI are highly reliant on freshwater availability with freshwater input coming entirely from precipitation, making freshwater supply particularly vulnerable to dry conditions. Drought is one of the most important stressors facing USAPI human communities, ecosystems, and agricultural. Understanding the impacts of drought to the USAPI, summarizing the current state of the science, and providing information on areas of resilience is important to successful adaptation and management.

Map showing the location of the islands that form the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands
Map of the USAPI (Credit: East-West Center)

The Workshop

In August 2018, the USGS National Climate Adaptation Science Center, with support from University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Integration and Application Network, U.S. Forest Service, and Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center held a two-day workshop to synthesize the impacts of drought on various sectors in the USAPI to address this need. Twenty seven participants from government agencies and universities in the USAPI participated in the meeting. The main goal of the workshop was to summarize information for managers and decision-makers to develop solutions to drought-induced impacts.

Fact Sheets

During the workshop, participants developed four, two-page summaries highlighting drought impacts on USAPI ecosystems, freshwater supply, and agriculture. Participants also produced a two-page summary on data monitoring needs and limitations. The workshop results and materials were highlighted at the March 2019 Pacific Islands Forestry Council Meeting in Honolulu, HI, where they sparked important discussions and future ideas to better manage for the unique impacts of drought in the USAPI. For more information see the USAPI drought synthesis fact sheets below. 

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