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November 30, 2022

A new report co-authored by National and North Central CASC researchers provides resource managers with guidance for understanding the effects of drought on local communities.

Drought affects regions and local communities differently depending on an area’s precipitation, snowpacks, and temperatures. Oftentimes, this makes it difficult for resource managers to determine the best action for mitigating the long-term impacts that a drought may have on not only the environment, but on the individuals and communities who depend on a steady source of water for their livelihoods and economies. In fact, some of the most challenging aspects of managing drought are the social impacts informed by changing policies and economies. The National and North Central CASC research team have created an approach for supporting resource managers in efficiently and effectively understanding the social dimensions of drought in order to make more informed decisions on preparing and responding to it.  

In a new USGS report, CASC researchers provide a guidebook for resource managers and other researchers to design and implement a rapid assessment of the social impacts from drought, which offers a timely, cost-effective research approach for providing results when extensive field research cannot be conducted. The method presented in the guidebook can be used by those with varying degrees of experience in drought social science research as it already includes much of the “pre-study leg work” needed to successfully perform a rapid assessment. It can also be uniquely tailored to individual regions, timescales, and data needs to provide actionable information.  

The authors demonstrate how rapid assessments can be an invaluable tool in gathering preliminary data of the social dimensions of drought as well as how these social dimensions can affect natural resources, such as wildlife and rangelands. Use of the guidebook may create a stronger understanding of the connection between human communities and ecosystems to produce more informed management decisions in the face of drought.

This work is supported by the National and North Central CASC project, “Developing and Testing a Rapid Assessment Method for Understanding Key Social Factors of Ecological Drought Preparedness”.  

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