Interior Department Announces Funding for Climate Change Studies

As part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, research funding will provide land and wildlife managers with tools to adapt to climate change

Last edited 4/26/2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that the Department of the Interior's regional Climate Science Centers and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center are awarding nearly $6 million to universities and other partners for 50 new research projects to better prepare communities for impacts of climate change.

"These climate studies are designed to help address regional concerns associated with climate change, providing a pathway to enhancing resilience and supporting local community needs," said Secretary Jewell. "The impacts of climate change are vast and complex, so studies like these are critical to help ensure that our nation's responses are rooted in sound science."

As part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, the 50 scientific studies announced today will focus on how climate change is affecting natural and cultural resources and tribal communities, as well as inform management actions that can be taken to help offset those impacts. The research can help guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources to plan how to help species, ecosystems, tribes and other communities adapt to climate change. The studies, most of which will occur over multiple years, will be conducted with fiscal year 2014 funding. A full list of the projects is available here.

Each of the Department of the Interior's eight regional Climate Science Centers (CSCs) worked with states, tribes, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), universities supporting the CSCs, and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists—including researchers from the universities that comprise each region's CSC—from Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and from other partners such as the states, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service, tribes, and the LCCs in each region.

“These are boots-on-the-ground practical projects to help answer the kinds of questions resource managers are asking about how to respond effectively to, and plan for, climate change,” said Suzette Kimball, Acting Director of USGS. “The selected projects will use the best science to help managers understand changes occurring now and in the future, as well as shed light on what management actions are most sensible to take.”

Useful links:

Full list of funded projects for all eight DOI Climate Science Centers and a map showing the consortiums of universities involved in each CSC.

The eight Interior Climate Science Centers form a national network and are coordinated through the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC), located at the headquarters of USGS.

Approximately $25 million of funding has been granted for research through the NCCWSC and the CSCs. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior's strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America's waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources.

Select examples of the 50 projects funded by CSCs and the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center with FY 2014 funds:

Alaska CSC:

  • Examining the effects of climate-mediated forest change in Alaska on the habitats of caribou and moose, both important to the subsistence and sport hunting economies throughout the state.
  • Helping land management planning by creating a groundwater-prediction model that addresses reduced snowfall and snowpack, earlier spring runoff, increased winter stream flow and flooding and decreased summer stream flow brought about by climate change.

North Central CSC:

  • Studying evaporation, drought and the water cycle in the northern Rockies and Northern Great Plains.
  • Understanding the human-dimension of adaptation planning for these anticipated changes.

Northeast CSC:

  • Projecting changes in winter severity, snowpack and lake ice in the Great Lakes Basin over the coming century and anticipated consequences for wildlife populations.

Northwest CSC:

  • Helping land managers in the Pacific Northwest strategically maximize snow retention by protecting forests in some areas while opening gaps in others.
  • Supporting climate-resilience planning for the 15 Columbia River Basin Tribes and 3 Inter-Tribal Organizations.
  • Understanding how wildfires and land-use change will affect watersheds and water supply, under current and future climates in the western United States.

Pacific Islands CSC:

  • Preparing for changes in freshwater resources and associated agro-forestry to improve food security and overall community resilience to the impacts of climate change.

South Central CSC:

  • Creating a better understanding of drought dynamics and fire weather forecasting by linking precipitation variability, soil and air temperatures and daily temperature changes.

Southeast CSC:

  • Providing research opportunities to students and staff working with the Southeast CSC with a focus on decision analysis and science communication training.

Southwest CSC:

  • Identifying a chronology of extreme storms, especially atmospheric rivers, over the past 30 years and their effects on the Sierra Nevada and western Great Basin ecosystems.
  • Unraveling the joint impacts of cool-season precipitation and increasing spring temperatures on snowpack declines and runoff in the Colorado River headwaters to help address future water management challenges throughout the basin, from the Rockies to California.
  • Examining the impact of increased storms and sea-level rise on connected coastal habitats in California and other coastal states to support future planning and conservation.