A team of researchers led by a Montana State University ecologist is launching a four-year project to provide land managers in the nation's federally managed lands with better information for dealing with climate change impacts.
A $1.8 million NASA-funded project uses NASA remote sensing data to help design management plans for public lands. According to MSU ecology professor Andrew Hansen, his team will use the information to simulate how the ecosystems of two Landscape Conservation Cooperatives will change under forecasted climate and land use changes.
The 21 LCCs, designated by the U.S. Department of Interior, collectively form a national network of land, water, wildlife, and cultural resource managers, scientists, and interested public and private organizations within the nation and across international borders that share a common need for scientific information and interest in conservation.
These lands include National Forest and Bureau of Land Management areas, many which are used by ranchers for grazing under federal permits.
"It's a big challenge because the LCCs are trying to figure out how to manage under future climate change,' explains Hansen. "It's also a big challenge because they are trying to figure how to manage across different government agencies."
Hansen and his colleagues will look at past ecological trends and predicted future trends and assess the vulnerability of ecosystems of certain species to climate and land use change.
The team will evaluate management options for the more vulnerable ecosystems and species in two of the LCCs. Then, they will use the information to help the LCCs design management approaches for the vulnerable ecosystems and species.
The project will focus on portions of the Great Northern and Appalachian LCCs, both of which support critical biological resources and have already undergone climate warming, Hansen believes. The Great Northern LCC encompasses the northern Rocky Mountains and Columbia Basin of the West.
Hansen will be working with several associates, including David Theobald of Colorado State University.