Alaska is a land of extremes. This includes its climate, which ranges from mild to maritime in its southeast, to arctic in its northern slope. Alaska is also at the forefront of experiencing changes in climate and climate variability, including higher temperatures and more precipitation. Over the past century, changes in climate have already led to a longer growing season that has expanded areas suitable for agricultural production. Along with improving opportunities for agricultural production, climate change will also bring challenges, such as increased risks of invasive species, pests, and diseases. With these opportunities and challenges, farmers and ranchers can take actions to reduce negative effects on their operations from climate change and to promote positive outcomes by implementing different adaptation strategies. This publication provides agricultural producers in Alaska with adaptation strategies and tactics to help farmers take actions to improve resilience of their operations to weather extremes and a changing climate. This is a structured and flexible guide to help identify and evaluate climate change impacts, challenges, opportunities, and operation-level resilience tactics. These methods provide guidance on understanding, planning for, and responding to climate change impacts to agriculture in Alaska. Technology transfer specialists and producers can work through the information provided herein to consider different strategies for producers to implement to achieve production goals in the face of rapidly changing and variable climate conditions.
This report presents considerations of potential hazards and mitigation measures associated with conducting field research in the context of a pathogenic epidemic or pandemic situation. We use an example of a specific risk assessment developed for advising decisions on initiating or continuing field activities (in this case, markresight and passive acoustic monitoring) associated with ongoing research of northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States under conditions imposed by the COVID-19 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2) global pandemic. We review the structure of a risk assessment procedure that follows USDA Forest Service policy in general and has specifically been applied to owl research during the current pandemic. The risk assessment framework we used included listing job objectives, job tasks, and potential hazards associated with each task. For each task, we evaluated the severity of the hazard (negligible, moderate, critical, or catastrophic) and the probability of a mishap if the hazard was present (rare, unlikely, possible, likely, or almost certain) and assigned a risk assessment code that identified risks as low, moderate, high, or extremely high. We then described mitigation and abatement measures that we posited would reduce the risk severity or probability, and then scored the residual (decreased) severity, probability, and risk level. We briefly review other potential considerations for a job hazard risk assessment under conditions of pathogenic outbreaks, including considerations for additional costs and administrative duties, working in proximity and unexpected encounters in field situations, and changes in behavior of wildlife.
Forests are often managed for a wide range of purposes, such as wood production, recreation and biodiversity conservation. Healthy, well-managed forests also store and filter water as well as reduce surface runoff and flood risk. Regrowing forests, on the other hand, can reduce downstream water supplies. Forests that are unmanaged may become overstocked (i.e. have a very high density of trees per unit area). This, in turn, can increase susceptibility to insect outbreaks and the risk of wildfire from the accumulation of fuels (Shang et al., 2004), both of which can have significant impacts on the forest hydrologic cycle (Goeking and Tarboton, 2020). Additionally, some unmanaged and potentially overstocked forests use more water and therefore may produce less streamflow than managed forests (i.e. with less growing stock). Forest managers need to achieve a balance between optimizing water yield (Evaristo and McDonnell, 2019) and keeping sufficient canopy to minimize soil erosion, maintain albedo (i.e. the proportion of incident light or radiation reflected from a surface) and promote water quality. Competing trade-offs between water and non-water natural resource demands from forests is a major forest management challenge (Sun and Vose, 2016). The need for clean, abundant, consistent water supplies is likely to increase as the climate changes and the human population continues to increase (Sun and Vose, 2016). Currently, about 4 billion people are affected by water scarcity at least once in any given year (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2016); this number is projected to grow to 6 billion by 2050 (Boretti and Rosa, 2019). Therefore, forest management that is explicitly designed to increase high-quality water supply is needed urgently.
To reduce maladaptation in cultivated seed lots, seed transfer zones (STZs) have been developed for grasslands and other habitats using morphological traits and phenological measurements that only capture the first day of events such as flowering and seed ripening. Phenology is closely linked to plant fitness and may affect genetic loss during harvests of seed raised for ecological restoration. Here, we measured the detailed phenologies of 27 populations from six STZs of bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) (Pursh) Á. Love (Poaceae) raised in a common garden to test whether existing STZs created using a combination of plant morphology and “first-day” phenological measurements adequately capture population-level variation in season-long, detailed phenologies. We also used detailed phenologies to test whether genetic losses may occur during single-pass harvests of commercial seed. Mixed and random effect models revealed differences in detailed reproductive phenology among populations within two of six STZs. The number of individual plants within an STZ not producing harvestable seed during peak harvest levels indicated that 10-27% of individuals from a seed lot could be excluded from a single-pass harvest. Although our findings generally support current STZ delineations for P. spicata, they point to the possible precautionary importance of sourcing from multiple populations and harvesting with multiple passes when resources permit.
Multiple climate change vulnerability assessments in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA provide the scientific information needed to begin adaptation in forested landscapes. Adaptation options developed by resource managers in conjunction with these assessments, newly summarized in the Climate Change Adaptation Library of the Western United States, provide an extensive choice of peer-reviewed climate-smart management strategies and tactics. More adaptation options are available for vegetation than for any other resource category, allowing vegetation management to be applied across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Good progress has been made in strategic development and planning for climate change adaptation in the Northwest, although on-the-ground implementation is in the early stages. However, recent regulatory mandates plus the increasing occurrence of extreme events (drought, wildfires, insect outbreaks) provide motivation to accelerate the adaptation process in planning and management on federal lands and beyond. Timely implementation of adaptation and collaboration across boundaries will help ensure the functionality of Northwest forests at broad spatial scales in a warmer climate.
Farmers, particularly small farmers, are on the frontlines of climate change. In Oregon’s Southern Willamette Valley, a needs assessment was conducted of small farmers in 2017, where questions related to climate change risks, attitudes toward adaptation and climate beliefs were assessed. Out of all the respondents (n = 123), the majority (70%) believe that climate change is occurring, and is caused mostly by human activities. The majority (58%) also strongly agree with the statement that they will have to change practices to cope with increasing climate variability in order to ensure the long-term success of their operation. Another 52% of these respondents indicated that they have already taken action to respond to climate change on their farms. However, only 32% of respondents agreed with the statement that they have the knowledge and skills to deal with weather-related threats to their operation. While this work is preliminary and not comprehensive, our findings suggest that these small farmers are concerned about climate change, readily accept the science as compared to other farmer groups in the USA, and are looking for additional tools and resource to increase their confidence in responding to the challenges they will face as a consequence of climate change.
Climate change is expected to have heterogeneous effects on agriculture across the USA, where temperature and precipitation regimes are already changing. While the overall effect of climate change on agriculture is uncertain, farmers’ perceptions of current and future climate and weather conditions will be a key factor in how they adapt. This paper analyzes data from paired surveys (N = 817) and natural variation from baseline weather across the inland Pacific Northwest (iPNW), to determine if long-term, gradual changes in precipitation, and temperature distributions affect farmers’ weather perceptions and intentions to adapt. We note that some areas in the iPNW have experienced significant changes in weather, while others have remained relatively constant. However, we find no relationship between changes in temperature and precipitation distributions and individuals’ perceptions and intentions to adapt. Our findings provide evidence that gradual, long-term changes in weather are temporally incongruous with human perception, which can impede support for climate action policy and adaptation strategies.
Droughts—prolonged times of low precipitation that occur periodically—are becoming more severe with climate change. In 2021, unprecedented drought conditions in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington broke several climate records, and it may take years for aquifers and reservoirs to recover.
The temperature of water within a river network fluctuates in time and place, creating diverse thermal regimes. This variability has important biological and ecological consequences. Water temperature and changes in temperature trigger changes in the life stages of aquatic organisms.