Decision Support for Climate Adaptation in the Upper Colorado River Basin: Why Drought Decision Makers Choose to Use Tools (or Not)
Chris M. Morris, Creative Commons.
Adapting to climate change and variability, and their associated impacts, requires integrating scientific information into complex decision making processes. Recognizing this challenge, there have been calls for federal climate change science to be designed and conducted in a way that ensures the research translates into effective decision support. Despite the existence of many decision support tools, however, the factors that influence which decision makers choose to use which decision support tools remain poorly understood. Using the Upper Colorado River Drought Early Warning System as a case study, this research will 1) examine how managers choose between many available tools and 2) consider how tool creators can better align their offerings to decision maker needs.
1. Improve understanding of:
The factors that influence decision makers’ choices to use decision support tools or not, and how they choose between available tools
How scientists creating decision support tools currently interface with decision makers and how their outreach efforts do or do not match information channels preferred by managers
The role that decision support tools play in drought decision making
2. Provide useful information to the National Integrated Drought Information System about the current use of the Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Early Warning System
Study Area and Scope
The Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) was one of the first pilot areas, beginning in 2008, for implementation of a regional drought early warning system (DEWS) under the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which now supports ten regional DEWS. The selection of the UCRB for a DEWS reflects the regional importance of drought monitoring for managing water supply for agriculture and other uses, and the need for effective decision support related to drought. New drought-information tools have been developed specifically for the UCRB DEWS, and a number of others have been created since 2008, adding to the pre-existing toolkit for drought decision making. The various tools that are now available in the UCRB region can be expected to be more or less suitable for different decision makers’ needs. As a result, the broad decision context of this case study (managing drought) is fixed, but information needs vary. Thus decision makers will make varied choices about which of the available tools to use or not use.
The overall aim is to juxtapose understanding of the tool development process of tool creators with understanding of the choices made by prospective tool users to incorporate (or not) given decision support tools into their drought decision making. Document analysis will provide context and an official view of tool development or agency decision making. Conversations with scientists creating tools and drought decision makers will be used to understand motivations, priorities, concerns, and tacit influences on behavior.
Simulating long-term effectiveness and efficiency of management scenarios for an invasive grass
Jarnevich, C.S., T.R. Holcombe, C. Cullinane Thomas, L. Frid, and A. Olsson
Resource managers are often faced with trade-offs in allocating limited resources to manage plant invasions. These decisions must often be made with uncertainty about the location of infestations, their rate of spread and effectiveness of management actions. Landscape level simulation tools such as state-and-transition simulation models (STSMs) can be used to evaluate the potential long term consequences of alternative management strategies and help identify those strategies that make efficient use of resources. We analyzed alternative management scenarios for African buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare syn. Cenchrus ciliaris) at Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona using a spatially explicit STSM implemented in the Tool for Exploratory Landscape Scenario Analyses (TELSA). Buffelgrass is an invasive grass that is spreading rapidly in the Sonoran Desert, affecting multiple habitats and jurisdictions. This invasion is creating a novel fire risk and transforming natural ecosystems. The model used in this application incorporates buffelgrass dispersal and establishment and management actions and effectiveness including inventory, treatment and post-treatment maintenance. We simulated 11 alternative scenarios developed in consultation with buffelgrass managers and other stakeholders. The scenarios vary according to the total budget allocated for management and the allocation of that budget between different kinds of management actions. Scenario results suggest that to achieve an actual reduction and stabilization of buffelgrass populations, management unconstrained by fiscal restrictions and across all jurisdictions and private lands is required; without broad and aggressive management, buffelgrass populations are expected to increase over time. However, results also suggest that large upfront investments can achieve control results that require relatively minimal spending in the future. Investing the necessary funds upfront to control the invasion results in the most efficient use of resources to achieve lowest invaded acreage in the long-term.
Collaborative Socioeconomic Tool Development to Address Management and Planning Needs
Richardson, L., C. Huber, C. Thomas, L. Donovan, and L. Koontz
ASPN is a Web-based decision tool that assists natural resource managers and planners in identifying and prioritizing social and economic planning issues, and provides guidance on appropriate social and economic methods to address their identified issues.
ASPN covers the breadth of issues facing natural resource management agencies so it is widely applicable for various resources, plans, and projects.
ASPN also realistically accounts for budget and planning time constraints by providing estimated costs and time lengths needed for each of the possible social and economic methods.
ASPN is a valuable starting point for natural resource managers and planners to start working with their agencies’ social and economic specialists. Natural resource management actions have social and economic effects that often require appropriate analyses. Additionally, in the United States, Federal agencies are legally mandated to follow guidance under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires addressing social and economic effects for actions that may cause biophysical impacts. Most natural resource managers and planners lack training in understanding the full range of potential social and economic effects of a management decision as well as an understanding of the variety of methods and analyses available to address these effects. Thus, ASPN provides a common framework which provides consistency within and across natural resource management agencies to assist in identification of pertinent social and economic issues while also allowing the social and economic analyses to be tailored to best meet the needs of the specific plan or project.
ASPN can be used throughout a planning process or be used as a tool to identify potential issues that may be applicable to future management actions. ASPN is useful during the pre-scoping phase as a tool to start thinking about potential social and economic issues as well as to identify potential stakeholders who may be affected. Thinking about this early in the planning process can help with outreach efforts and with understanding the cost and time needed to address the potential social and economic effects. One can use ASPN during the scoping and post-scoping phases as a way to obtain guidance on how to address issues that stakeholders identified. ASPN can also be used as a monitoring tool to identify whether new social and economic issues arise after a management action occurs.
ASPN is developed through a collaborative research effort between the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s (FORT) Social and Economic Analysis (SEA) Branch and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ASPN’s technical development is led by the USGS FORT’s Information Science Branch. An updated release, which will extend ASPN’s functionality and incorporate feature improvements identified in ongoing usability testing, is currently in the planning stages.
Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) poses a problem in the deserts of the United States, growing in dense stands and introducing a wildfire risk in an ecosystem not adapted to fire. The Invasive Species Science Branch of the Fort Collins Science Center has worked with many partners to develop a decision support model and a data management system to address the problem. The decision support model evaluates potential strategies for resource use and allocation. The data management system is a portal where users can submit, view, and download buffelgrass data. These tools provide a case study showcasing how the FORT is working to address the urgent issue of invasive species in the United States.
A Decision Support Model for Buffelgrass Management in Southern Arizona
Holcombe, T.R., L. Frid, A. Olsson, K. Bryan, A. Hall, and J.T. Morisette
Buffelgrass poses an imminent threat to the Sonoran desert ecosystem and the human communities embedded within it. Its ability to fill an empty niche in the ecosystem and transform fire regimes could be catastrophic to both the biodiversity of this unique American landscape and to the safety of the people who live there. Given the urgency of the situation and the limited resources available, land managers need tools to evaluate the potential efficacy of alternative mitigation strategies. This study focused on the development of a spatially explicit model as a decision support system to evaluate such strategies...
In Fiscal Year 2006 (FY06), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) continued research vital to U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) science and management needs and associated USGS programmatic goals. FORT work also supported the science needs of other governmental departments and agencies as well as private cooperators. Specifically, FORT scientific research and technical assistance focused on client and partner agency needs and goals in the areas of biological information management, fisheries and aquatic systems, invasive species, status and trends of biological resources, terrestrial ecosystems, and wildlife resources. Highlights of FORT project accomplishments are described below under the USGS science program area with which each task is most closely associated.
The work of FORT's five branches (in 2006: Aquatic Systems and Technology Applications, Ecosystem Dynamics, Invasive Species Science, Policy Analysis and Science Assistance, and Species and Habitats of Federal Interest) often involves major partnerships with other agencies or cooperation with other USGS disciplines (Geology, Geography, Water Resources).
PowerPoint presentation: An overview of the upper Delaware River decision support system