3B.4 Understanding and Responding to Ecological Drought: Supporting the National Drought Resilience Partnership in Montana’s Upper Missouri Headwaters

Monday, 8 January 2018: 2:45 PM
Room 6B (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Amanda E Cravens, USGS, Fort Collins, CO; and A. Schwend, T. Laidlaw, J. McEvoy, S. Crausbay, A. Ramirez, N. Raheem, M. Cross, K. Hall, and S. Carter

In the 21st century, anthropogenic climate change and expanding human demands for land and water result in ecosystems that are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of drought (Crausbay & Ramirez et al. 2017). This vulnerability has effects not only on biodiversity, but also on human health, safety, and livelihoods due to our dependence on the goods and services ecosystems provide. These ecological drought impacts are particularly important in landscapes—like the Upper Missouri Headwaters of southwestern Montana—where ecosystem-dependent activities like fishing, ranching, & ecotourism are major economic drivers. Despite the importance of ecological drought impacts to local communities and economies, they remain poorly understood compared to the more-recognized impacts drought has on agriculture and municipal water supplies.

We report on a collaboration that aims to address the unique vulnerabilities and impacts of ecological drought in the Upper Missouri Headwaters. The State of Montana and the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) is coordinating local, state, and federal agency efforts to address the overall challenge of building drought resilience in this region. In addition, the Science for Nature and People Partnership’s (SNAPP) Ecological Drought Working Group brings together scientists representing federal agencies, academia, and NGOs to synthesize ecological drought science and apply it to the case study of the Upper Missouri Headwaters region.

The goal of our collaboration is to understand and reduce ecological drought vulnerability in the complex socio-ecological systems of this region. To meet this goal, the SNAPP Working Group has developed a conceptual framework and definition of ecological drought (Crausbay & Ramirez et al. 2017; also see Figure 1) that has been used by the Montana project to structure drought planning meetings and efforts to educate participating community members. We have also held workshops to help drought planners and other stakeholders identify the ecosystem services present in the region and used interviews to identify a “bottom-up” view of stakeholders’ perceptions of ecological drought vulnerability and desire for scientific information to aid drought response and preparation. Finally, all this stakeholder-generated information has been used to inform novel modelling approaches of ecological drought impacts and identify proactive management strategies. Through these diverse science activities, the SNAPP Working Group is supporting the Montana project’s goal of building drought resilience by integrating ecological drought concepts into a regional drought planning approach.

Our collaboration suggests that partnerships between scientists and drought planners can move beyond traditional consideration of agriculture and water supply to a more holistic view of drought resilience that includes consideration of drought’s impacts on ecosystems and ecosystem services.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner