Managing climate impacts to natural resources in protected areas can be hampered by lack of monitoring data, poor understanding of natural resource responses to climate, or lack of timely condition assessments that can inform management actions. Here we demonstrate the utility of water balance as a tool for understanding natural resource responses to climate by developing case studies focused on stream flow, vegetation production, and wildfire ignition at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (GSDNP), U.S.A. The efficacy of water balance to predict these responses stems from the explicit integration of climate with site conditions that modify the effects of climate. This in turn results in estimates of water availability, water use, and water need that are proximal drivers of aquatic and terrestrial natural resource conditions. The water balance model successfully forecasted stream flow (r2 = 0.69, P < 0.001); determined the critical water needs for maintaining annual vegetation production in different vegetation types spanning a large environmental gradient (r2 = 0.18–0.71); and predicted proportion of historic wildfire ignitions in forest (r2 = 0.96–0.99) and non-forest (r2 = 0.96–0.97) vegetation types. Collectively, these case studies demonstrate practical approaches to translate climate data into assessments of natural resource condition that inform long-term planning and near-term strategic actions needed for conservation of protected areas.
|Title||Water balance as an indicator of natural resource condition: Case studies from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve|
|Authors||David P. Thoma, Michael T. Tercek, E. William Schweiger, Seth M. Munson, John E. Gross, S. Tom Olliff|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Global Ecology and Conservation|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Southwest Biological Science Center|