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One of the biggest challenges facing resource managers today is not knowing exactly when, where, and how climate change effects will unfold. While 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.
In order to plan for this uncertain future, managers have begun to use a tool known as scenario planning. In this approach, a subset of global climate model projections are selected that represent a range of plausible future climate scenarios for a particular area. Through a series of facilitated workshops, managers can then explore different management options under each scenario, enabling them to be proactive in the face of uncertainty. However, selecting and synthesizing climate information for scenario planning requires significant time and skills, and it can be difficult to predict exactly how resources might respond to a combination of climate, management actions, and other factors.
Therefore, the goals of this project were to develop a process for creating regional climate summaries that can also be used for local scenario planning, and to pilot an approach for enhancing scenario planning through simulation modeling. Researchers drew on global climate model projections to develop several climate summaries for the northern Great Plains region. The summaries are expected to be used for local-scale climate adaptation planning efforts for Badlands National Park (South Dakota) and Knife River Indian Villages National Historical Site (North Dakota) and surrounding federal and tribal lands. A final step was to develop a simulation model for the South Dakota site to help managers address the “what if” questions regarding how management actions might affect focal resources under the different scenarios.
Not only is this project meant to improve climate adaptation efforts in the northern Great Plains region, but it is also expected to result 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.