Monday, October 7, 2013

Bold review on climate change and grasslands...

Another review on climate change and grasslands just published. This one is fairly bold.

The review was not bold for its findings. It mostly repeats findings from IPCC and national assessments. CO2 concentrations and temperatures are rising. Precipitation patterns are shifting.

The consequences listed can also be a bit opaque. Responses to grasslands and grazers will vary regionally. Plant species composition will shift.

Some findings are rarely found in climate change syntheses. How many people thought about the winter survival of horn flies, no less that they can reduce cattle weight gain by 4-14%?

Instead, the review is a landmark for where it was published: Rangeland Ecology and Management, a place that publishes relatively few papers on climate change**.

**(But not none.)

It is safe to say that the livestock community has not been at the vanguard of documenting and understanding climate change. Some of the strongest strongholds of what is referred to as "climate change denial" are there, leaving an important socio-economic sector vulnerable while preventing progress for other sectors.

Another reason it is bold: the review was not submitted from outside the society. It came from within**. Authors hail from USDA-ARS, Texas A&M, NOAA, and New Mexico State University.

**The paper was "commissioned by the board of directors of the Society for Range Management in support of the society’s position on climate change.

Here are some of statements that are in the review:

"Directional change in climatic means and increasing climatic variability and extreme events indicate that a ‘‘business as usual’’ approach to rangeland management is no longer viable. Previous climatic and weather patterns may no longer serve as a reliable guide to future conditions."

"A compelling footprint of climate change has been emerging since the mid-20th century that lends tremendous credibility to model projections of increased deviation from mean climatic trends and greater climatic variability."


And finally, the last paragraph...

"We contend that an unrealistic perception of climatic consistency has hindered the development and implementation of sufficient contingency planning to manage for current weather variability and that it poses a major impediment to recognition of the emerging consequences of climate change as well as development of effective strategies to contend with these consequences. It is essential for the rangeland profession to recognize that 1) shifts in mean climatic trends have already been documented, 2) accelerated rates of climate change will have dramatic effects on the provisioning of rangeland services and human well-being, and 3) many of the adverse consequences of climate change may be effectively confronted with the proactive development and implementation of appropriate adaptation and transformation strategies"

If this review is read at all, it either signals a categorical shift in climate change in the US, or will cause one of the largest schisms in the rangeland science communities we've seen in awhile. 

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