DOINews: Interior Announces New 2013 Research Projects at the Northwest Climate Science Center

Last edited 4/26/2016

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the Northwest CSC is awarding nearly $1.3 million to universities and other partners for research to guide resource managers in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

The Northwest CSC will fund seven new projects and continue funding eight projects from previous years; the ongoing projects range from developing future climate, water, and vegetation scenarios for the Northwest to determine how climate impacts will affect different habitats, such as wetlands, streams and sagebrush steppe, and the animals that live in them, such as frogs, salmon and sage grouse.

Most of the new projects focus on the effects of climate on resources of cultural significance to tribes. While the emphasis is on Northwest tribes, the NW CSC has built a partnership with the Alaska CSC and the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative to fund projects that benefit Native Americans in both regions. This underscores the NW CSC pledge to provide enhanced services to the Native American community at large and to engage in collaborative partnerships that leverage limited resources and address shared priorities. New projects include:

  • Assessing the vulnerability of traditional women's foods of the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe to climate change in the Olympic Peninsula, Wash. Elders and wisdom keepers in these tribes are deeply concerned that climate change may diminish or eliminate culturally significant plant species. Researchers will work closely with them and resource managers to document the historical distribution of these plants and assess future distribution using climate scenarios. Study results will produce specific management options for the tribes.
  • Understanding Native American cultural responses associated with climate change. There are aspects of tribal culture -- such as songs, stories, prayers and dances – that focus on fish, wildlife or plants as central images or main symbolic figures. Because climate change affects the presence, abundance and patterns of distribution of animals and plants, the study will concentrate on four Northwest tribes to document whether and how such changes influence tribal cultural aspects connected to those significant resources. These observations will help better describe the nuances and dimensions of Northwest tribal culture and its vulnerability and adaptive capacity to a changing climate.
  • Supporting the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, an annual forum that provides an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to exchange scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate on people, natural resources, and infrastructure in the region.
  • Through several projects funded jointly by the NW CSC, the Alaska CSC and the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative, researchers will:
    • Work with the Chugachmiut tribal consortium to develop a model that predicts where subsistence berry plants will be most resistant to recent moth outbreaks that are decimating berry harvests in south-central Alaska. The Native people of this region rely heavily on gathered food for sustenance and nourishment, but the recent outbreaks of geometrid moths may be linked to climate change; tribal elders and scientific records document that such outbreaks have not occurred in the area before.
    • Identify climate vulnerabilities of eulachon, a highly nutritious fish that is culturally significant to peoples of the Tlingit Nation in Southeast Alaska. The project will conduct a climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan for eulachon in the Chilkoot and Chilkat rivers near Haines, Alaska. A tribal group will analyze these climate change projections, apply traditional knowledge, rank climate vulnerabilities and prioritize adaptation strategies. This project's results will be valuable to Native communities throughout the region.
    • Evaluate the impacts of future climate scenarios on the survival and health of Pacific lamprey and Pacific eulachon; these species are used as important food sources by the Native American tribes of the Columbia River basin and coastal areas of Washington and Oregon. This project will also include certain salmonid (steelhead and salmon) species of importance to these tribes.
    • Foster a more collaborative tribal and government approach for tribal climate change and adaptation planning in the Klamath Basin in Oregon and California. A tribal youth intern program will be created, building on current efforts to integrate western science and traditional ecological knowledge for climate change and adaptation planning in the area.