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South Central Climate Science Center and Consortium Members Receive Department of Interior Funds for Seven Projects

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South Central Climate Science Center and Consortium Members Receive Department of Interior Funds for Seven Projects


CONTACT: Jana Smith (405) 325-1322

NORMAN — The South Central Climate Science Center—one of eight Department of Interior regional climate science centers nationwide—hosted by the University of Oklahoma, has received funding for seven projects totaling $826,534. In addition to OU, the Center’s members are the U.S. Geological Survey, Texas Tech University, Oklahoma State University, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Louisiana State University and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

“This is a very exciting time for the South Central Climate Science Center,” said Center Director Kim Winton. “This our first set of projects to be funded. These cooperative agreements reaffirm that we have the right projects and scientists together to bring science and decision-making tools to federal, state, local and tribal resource managers.”

The South Central Climate Science Center and its members received funding for the following projects:

Terrestrial Connectivity across the South Central United States: Implications for the Sustainability of Wildlife Populations and Communities ($203,918 for 1 year)
Principal Investigator: Kristen Baum, Oklahoma State University
Cooperators & Partners: Samuel D. Fuhlendorf, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, OSU; Kristopher L. Giles, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, OSU; Daniel Saenz, Southern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service; Monica Papes, Department of Zoology, OSU; Norman C. Elliot, U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service; Bill Bartush, Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative, National Wetlands Research Center; Allan Janus, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Connectivity, or the extent to which a landscape facilitates or impedes the movement of organisms, is an important component of the sustainability of wildlife populations and communities. Habitat fragmentation, modification, and loss have been implicated in the decline of almost all threatened and endangered species, and both continued land-use change and climate change will have an effect on habitats. The goal of this project is to use a systematic and comprehensive approach to evaluate terrestrial connectivity across the South Central United States. Models will be used to predict patterns of connectivity for species which vary in habitat preferences, methods of habitat selection, and responses to the area between habitats. Researchers will evaluate the implications of predicted land-use change across the study area, including a focus on climate change and dominant land uses within the region. The results of this project will include spatially explicit connectivity maps that can be used for making informed management decisions about terrestrial connectivity within this region.

Delineation of Fresh, Intermediate, Brackish, and Saline Marsh Types of the North Central Gulf of Mexico Coast ($150,000 for 1 year)
Principal Investigator: Steve Hartley, U.S. Geological Survey, National Wetlands Research Center
Cooperators & Partners: Brady Couvillion and Bill Jones, USGS; Nicholas Enwright, Five Rivers Services; Mike Brasher, Gulf Coast Joint Venture and Ducks Unlimited; Barry Wilson, GCJV and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Jenneke Visser, University of Louisiana at Lafayette; and Bart Ballard, Texas A&M, Kingsville

Spatial data depicting marsh types (e.g. fresh, intermediate, brackish, and saline) for the north-central Gulf of Mexico coast are inconsistent across the region, limiting the ability of conservation planners to model the current and future capacity of the coast to sustain priority species. The goal of this study is to (1) update the resolution of coastal Texas vegetation data to match that of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and (2) update vegetation maps for the Texas through Alabama region using current Landsat Imagery. Creating consistent regional vegetation maps will enable scientists to model vegetation response to and potential impacts of future climate change.

Occurrence and Variation in Submersed Aquatic Vegetation along the Northern Gulf of Mexico: a Hierarchical Approach to Assess Impacts of Environmental Change on SAV Resources ($267,209 for 3 years)
Principal Investigators: Megan La Peyre, U.S. Geological Survey, Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit
Cooperators & Partners: Andy Nyman, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center; Mike Poirrier, University of New Orleans; Brady Couvillion, USGS, National Wetlands Research Center; Joy Merino, National Marine Fisheries Service; Mike Brasher, Ducks Unlimited, Gulf Coast Joint Venture; Stephen DeMaso, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and GCJV; and Barry Wilson, GCJV

Submersed aquatic vegetation communities are highly productive ecosystems that provide significant ecological benefits to coastal areas. Despite their critical importance, and their global decline, the scientific community lacks consistent baseline data on SAV resources across the gradient from fresh to brackish (slightly salty) to salt water. This project will 1) provide data on the occurrence and abundance of SAV (e.g., coverage, composition, seed resources) within the northern Gulf of Mexico, 2) quantitatively assess environmental factors affecting its variation across space and time, and 3) develop a conceptual model of factors influencing SAV resources. These data are critical in identifying numerical relationships between SAV resources and environmental variables, and will enable predictive modeling of SAV resources under different scenarios of landscape and climate change. This work will contribute to the refinement of existing models of ecosystem change and directly benefit efforts to forecast the effects of climate change on distribution, abundance, and diversity of SAV resources and the priority fish and wildlife populations that depend upon them.

Expert Workshop to Build CSC Expertise in Understanding the Social and Communication Dimensions of Climate Change ($50,000 for 1 year)
Principal Investigator: Dennis Patterson, Texas Tech University
Cooperators & Partners: Katharine Hayhoe, TTU, and Riley Dunlap, Oklahoma State University

A limited amount of valid scientific information about global climate change and its detrimental impacts has reached the public and exerted a positive impact on the public policy process or future planning for adaptation and mitigation. This project is designed to address this limitation by bringing together expertise in the social and communication sciences from targeted academic institutions affiliated with the Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers by means of a workshop. Workshop attendees will address and examine barriers to climate communication and methods for communicating science for policy application and engaging media and outreach. Results from the workshop will be published and made available as a resource to CSCs, scientists, land managers, and policymakers. This effort will bring together the expertise needed to ensure that the nation’s CSCs are able to effectively communicate the science of the important but often misunderstood issue of anthropogenic climate change and meaningfully support effective policy across the United States

Evaluating the Assumption of Stationarity in Statistical Downscaling Applications ($50,000 for 1 year)
Principal Investigators: Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University, and Keith Dixon and John Lanzante, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

Regional assessments of the impacts of climate change on both human systems and the natural environment require high-resolution projections to see the effects of global-scale change on the local environment. This project will address a critical and generally overlooked assumption inherent to these projections of regional, multi-decadal climate change: that the statistical relationship between global climate model simulation outputs and real, observed climate data remain constant over time. Utilizing a “perfect--‐model” experimental design and the output of two high-resolution global climate model simulations, this study will evaluate and report on the ability of three different methods to simulate current and future temperature and precipitation in the U.S., with a focus on the southern Great Plains region. Differences between the methods’ abilities during the late 20th versus late 21st century time periods will provide valuable information regarding the level of confidence we should attribute to the climate projections commonly used in impacts analyses and as the basis for decision-support and planning purposes.

Inter-Tribal Workshops on Climate Variability and Change ($55,407 for 18 months)
Principal Investigator: Laurel Smith, University of Oklahoma
Cooperators & Partners: Renee McPherson, Randy Peppler, Rachel Riley, University of Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation, U.S. Department of Environment Health and Safety; Dana McDaniel Bonham, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; Kim Winton, U.S. Geological Survey; Filoteo Gómez, Private Consultant

New affiliations among tribal nations and members of the climate science and conservation communities call for multicultural conversations about climate change, risk, and variability. To contribute to the goal of mutual understanding, this project will develop and implement a series of workshops that will (1) educate tribal representatives across the region about climate science and climate adaptation practices, (2) document climate impacts on the tribal nations and their peoples, lands, resources, and economies, and (3) extend, enhance, and foster dialogue among tribal representatives, climate scientists, and conservation leadership. By blending educational outreach with preliminary research on how tribal members know and conceptualize weather and climate, as well as how they have historically struggled with adapting to new climate conditions, this project will facilitate the design of products that tribal decision-makers can use, help monitor climate change in the field, and provide lessons about adaptation that are useful for both tribal and non-tribal communities and businesses.

Synthesizing Ecohydrology Models as a Management Tool for Landscape Conservation under Climate Change ($50,000 for 1 year)
Principal Investigator: Shannon Brewer, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Cooperators & Partners: Chris Zou, Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Oklahoma State University; Paul Kemp, International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research, University of Southampton; Thomas Worthington, Natural Resources Ecology and Management, Oklahoma State University
Additional Support: Oklahoma Cooperative Research Unit

To date, hydrological and ecological models have been developed independently from each other, making their application particularly challenging for interdisciplinary studies. The objective of this project is to synthesize and evaluate prevailing hydrological and ecological models in the South-Central U.S., particularly the southern Great Plains region. This analysis will identify the data requirements and suitability of each model to simulate stream flow while addressing associated changes in the ecology of stream systems, and will portray climate variability and uncertainty. The anticipated results and deliverables of this project will include a comprehensive, updated, and systematic report on recent developments in ecosystem hydrology with a focus on freshwater resource management. This synthesis report will directly address existing needs of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives by providing information that can be readily used to help understand the effect of climate change and land management on hydrology and associated fish communities.

For more information about the South Central Climate Science Center, contact Center Director Kim Winton at

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