A 'Back to the Future' Approach to Taking Action on Climate ChangeMarch 18, 2014
How can communities dodge future disasters from Mother Nature before she has dealt the blow? Researchers are taking a unique approach to the issue and gaining input and support from community stakeholders. Daniel Murphy, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of anthropology, will present findings on March 20, at the 74th annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA) in Albuquerque, N.M.
The presentation reveals an innovative, interdisciplinary research technique for approaching climate change vulnerability that's called Multi-scale, Interactive Scenario-Building (MISB). The project focuses on two geographic case studies: Big Hole Valley in Montana - a high-altitude ranching valley - and Grand County in Colorado - a resort community west of Denver and south of Rocky Mountain National Park.
The researchers conducted a series of one-on-one interviews at those sites to get an array of community contributors thinking and planning for future ecological hazards, and to consider the impact of those decisions.
The researchers posed three scenarios involving future drastic climate changes. The one-on-one interviews involved around 30 people for each region, ranging from ranchers to teachers, small business owners, hunting guides, county planners and representatives from federal and state agencies. Ecologists on the research team would then predict the impact of the suggested planning.
The three possible scenarios were:
Some Like it Hot - Describes years and years of consistent summer drought.
The Seasons, They're a-Changing - Describes changes in seasonality, such as significantly increased rainfall in the spring.
Feast or Famine - Describes big swings in temperature and precipitation between years.
"Areas like the Big Hole depend on snow to irrigate their hayfields," explains Murphy, "so little snowfall could pose a big problem. Not only does it affect their hay crop, but in a region with the Arctic Grayling, a candidate for endangered listing, the water shortage would affect wildlife. Because of these scenarios, more groups were open to conservation efforts. All community interests were able to see the benefits of conservation efforts."
Murphy says scenarios to remove or shrink grazing allotments for ranchers were also big concerns, since ranchers would turn to grazing allotments to offset the effect of drought on herds.
"Flood irrigation, for example, has environmental impacts that are really, really good. So, we looked at the impact of stopping flood irrigation and switching to center pivot irrigation. It could rob the groundwater, it would evaporate off the soil and it wouldn't go back into the river, so river levels would go down and stress the fish. So in examining that scenario, ranchers could see how this feeds back and that's the iteration," says Murphy.
Murphy adds that one of the major concerns in Grand County, Colo., is also water, because much of the snow melt there feeds into a lake that's a reservoir for Denver's water. "Ranchers, irrigators and home owners are concerned about rising water prices if there is less snow, so that was a conflict that seemed to emerge there."
Murphy says that in both Grand County and Big Hole Valley, the second scenario was perceived as an opportunity, because despite any temperature increases or other issues, it involved continuous rain in the spring.
Murphy is now exploring climate vulnerability in Ohio's Appalachia near the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio, where he says future flooding could pose a threat.
"A lot of research in this area tends to focus on past vulnerability or past adaptation, and from my perspective, that's come and gone. The real opportunities lie in the future, and we're examining how city planners, urban planners and extension agents can utilize our research in future decision-making," says Murphy.
Funding for the project was supported by the U.S. Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. The interdisciplinary project involved the expertise of anthropologists, conservation social scientists, ecologists and a hydrologist.
Co-researchers on the project are Laurie Yung, associate professor of natural resource social science, University of Montana; Carina Wyborn, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Montana and visiting fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University; and Daniel Williams, research social scientist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
The SFAA promotes interdisciplinary research in addressing issues affecting human beings around the world. The destinations theme of the spring conference focuses on transience and mobility.
UC's Department of Anthropology in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) is involved in active field research stretching from Madagascar to Mongolia. Its emphasis on research and teaching covers bioevolutionary approaches to health, ecosystem dynamics and forms of social inequality.
University of Cincinnati
Related Ranchers Current Events and Ranchers News Articles
Horse owners can manage flies with wasps instead of pesticides
Horses need help when it comes to insect pests like flies. But, unfortunately, horse owners are in the dark about how best to manage flies because research just hasn't been done, according to a new overview of equine fly management in the latest issue of the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, an open-access journal that is written for farmers, ranchers, and extension professionals.
Both sides framed Keystone XL Pipeline debate in Nebraska
As supporters and opponents of the proposed Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline testified at public hearings in Nebraska between 2010-2013, several interest groups attempted to frame the debate in different ways.
Brazilian beef industry moves to reduce its destruction of rain forests
Expansion of cattle pastures has led to the destruction of huge swaths of rain forest in Brazil, home to the world's largest herd of commercial beef cattle.
Rainforest protection akin to speed limit control
The destruction of the Brazilian rainforest has slowed significantly. With around 5000 square kilometers annually, the loss is now about 80% lower than in 2004.
Gene in high-altitude cattle disease sheds light on human lung disease
Vanderbilt University researchers have found a genetic mutation that causes pulmonary hypertension in cattle grazed at high altitude, and which leads to a life-threatening condition called brisket disease.
A little rest from grazing improves native grasslands
Just like us, grasslands need rest to improve their health. A study just published by Point Blue Conservation Science in the journal Ecological Restoration shows a 72 percent increase in where native perennial grasses were found on a coastal California ranch when cattle grazing was changed to give the land more time to rest.
Trees and shrubs invading critical grasslands, diminish cattle production
Half of the Earth's land mass is made up of rangelands, which include grasslands and savannas, yet they are being transformed at an alarming rate.
Study finds benefits to burning Flint Hills prairie in fall and winter
Kansas State University researchers have completed a 20-year study that looks at the consequences of burning Flint Hills prairie at different times of the year.
Meet the gomphothere: UA archaeologist involved in discovery of bones of elephant ancestor
An animal once believed to have disappeared from North America before humans ever arrived there might actually have roamed the continent longer than previously thought - and it was likely on the list of prey for some of continent's earliest humans, researchers from the University of Arizona and elsewhere have found.
How to protect an American wildlife legacy
A new paper shows that while science plays a critical role in informing conservation action, scientists must move beyond the realm of their expertise into less familiar areas like public relations, education, and even politics, to ultimately meet America's conservation goals.
More Ranchers Current Events and Ranchers News Articles