NW CASC Research Provides New Synthesis on Ecological Drought in the Northwest

As the climate changes in the Northwest, increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are expected to significantly alter our annual snowpack, stream flows and water availability. Along with these changes comes an increased risk of ecological drought, or periods of water stress that significantly impact species, habitats, ecosystems and the services they provide. More frequent and severe ecological droughts have the potential to push ecosystems beyond their ability to recover, resulting in complete changes in ecosystem composition and function.

Increasing ecological drought may require resource managers to adjust certain management practices. To help resource managers plan for increasing ecological drought under climate change, the Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center (NW CASC) funded researchers to synthesize and evaluate the scientific body of research on climate adaptation actions that address ecological drought in the Northwest, identifying benefits and limitations of specific management approaches. NW CASC researchers also incorporated adaptation actions and strategies that managers identified and prioritized during regional adaptation workshops and other planning efforts.

The resultant report, Extremes to Ex-Streams: Ecological Drought Adaptation in a Changing Climate, provides an overview of ecological drought impacts in the Northwest, describes effective ecological drought adaptation actions available to and in use by resource managers, and provides potential future options for management under changing conditions. Recognizing that managers need to consider both effectiveness and feasibility when selecting adaptation actions, this report aims to support informed decision-making by classifying each adaptation action according to the feasibility of implementing it and its effectiveness in reducing ecological drought risks.

The detailed synthesis report and user-friendly fact sheet that were developed through this project will help managers prioritize actions to implement and better align adaptation efforts with specific management challenges. Information about which adaptation actions can be best implemented at different scales and in different ecosystems will help resource managers identify and leverage funding opportunities, create new or enhance existing partnerships, and communicate and coordinate with other agencies and organizations to prioritize on-the-ground ecological drought responses.

Read the Report

Check out the fact sheet

Dry riverbed near Mt. Hood, Oregon
Source: Grant Benesh, Unsplash, Public Domain