Climate Adapatation Strategies for Agriculture and Forestry: Two unique projects, combining research and extension to mitigate effects from climate change
PINEMAP (www.pinemap.org) focuses on the twenty million acres of planted pine forests managed by private landowners in the southern United States. These forests provide critical economic and ecological services as well as supplying more then 16% of global industrial wood. Additionally, southern forests store approximately 1/3 of all of the U.S.'s forest carbon, equivalent to 13% of the carbon generated by the region. The goal of this project is to generate the research that will enable southern pine landowners to adapt their forest management approaches to increase carbon sequestration, efficiency of nitrogen and increase forest resiliency and sustainability under a changing climate. PINEMAP includes four research teams focused on silviculture and ecosystem ecology, genetics of pines, modeling as well as economics. PINEMAP has two other teams specifically focused on education and extension efforts. The PINEMAP extension team which includes two climatologists, is tasked with disseminating all new developments from the project to forestry stakeholders, such as private forest landowners, professional consulting foresters, industry foresters and state agency personnel. One of the key premises of the PINEMAP is that education and extension specialists, as well as applied climatologists have been in the project from the beginning and therefore, are able to learn about and share new developments much quicker then the traditional academic approach. The climatologists have provided important guidance for PINEMAP's modeling and extension efforts, especially on which climate models would be appropriate for forest research models. For the extension team, the climatologists have been a great asset in developing appropriate, accurate descriptions of any climatological processes that have been cited in educational materials and for speaking at workshops, webinars and training sessions to educate attendees on climate science, as well as clear up misconceptions.
The Animal Agriculture and Climate Change project is a National facilitation effort with an overall goal to have Extension personnel, working with partner organizations effectively informing and influencing livestock and poultry producers and consumers of animal products in all regions of the U.S. to move animal production toward practices that are environmentally sound, climatically compatible, and economically viable. A primary desired outcome is that stakeholder decisions result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing America's capacity to produce meat, milk, eggs and other animal products. The project is led by the National Livestock and Poultry Learning center (www.extension.org/animal_manure_management) and uses a regional approach to build capacity to influence climate change-related decisions made by livestock and poultry producers and consumers of animal products across the U.S. Focus is currently being placed on equipping extension personnel and stakeholder representatives to assess stakeholder needs relative to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to deliver extension programs that target those needs. On-demand web access to science-based information, educational resources, and decision-support tools are available and the team has established a national online-training course for extension and other professionals. The project has also conducted numerous regional workshops and stakeholder sessions and is learning effective strategies for reaching a group that traditionally are not that accepting of climate change messages.
Climate change is a controversial, polarizing topic across the United States (Leiserowitz et. al 2012), which makes developing educational programs related to climate change difficult. Agricultural producers, foresters and forest landowners have often already experienced challenges from a changing climate (such as the 2012 drought and other events), but only roughly 60% agree that climate change is occurring, and of those, only a smaller portion 16-20% agree that it is human-induced (Arbuckle et. Al 2012, Leiserowitz 2007, Boby et al, unpublished data). Thus, developing education and extension programs to reach agricultural producers, foresters and private forest landowners is challenging. Traditional messaging which focuses strictly on climate science and change is often of little interest to these groups (Arbuckle et al 2012), however, education and extension programs which focus on building resilience into the systems through management strategies which increase the ability of the land to recover and thrive from climate challenges, are received more favorably. Although, many agricultural and forestry stakeholders may not agree that the climate is changing, they are already familiar with typical seasonal climate variability and therefore, are likely to be open to information which addresses specific risks and solutions. Plantation forests are managed on 20-35 year cycles depending on what they are harvesting and what size they hope to achieve, consequently, management decisions made now are likely to affect the resiliency of these planted forests. Likewise, most animal producers have significant investments in buildings and other facilities that dictate their management and operation and it is not easy to change production practices quickly.
Both of these projects include innovative means of delivering forest and agricultural resiliency messages to multiple stakeholders. Extension teams have developed informational factsheets, e-learning modules, workshops, webinars, regional publications, and decision support tools which address how climate variability will affect these resources and how best to mitigate them. Additionally, people from both projects have partnered to exchange ideas on best methods for science delivery as well as developing climate science and forest/agricultural resiliency training sessions for county and state extension agents. Resiliency and adaptation strategies are necessary for the agriculture and forestry sectors to move forward under increasingly more variable climate and these projects help to meet those needs.