Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations in the Rogue River Basin

Jessi Kershner
Posted on: 12/17/2010 - Updated on: 11/03/2021

Posted by

Jessica Hitt

Project Summary

Located in southwest Oregon, the Rogue River Basin consists of unique ecological areas and natural resources that provide important ecosystem services to the region. Climate change is likely to generate significant new stresses and exacerbate current stressors to water quantity and quality, species, habitats, and ecosystem processes of the Rogue Basin. In 2008, the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy (now the Geos Institute), in collaboration with the University of Oregon’s Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI; now associated with the Sustainability Institute at Willamette University), released a report entitled Preparing for Climate Change in the Rogue River Basin of Southwest Oregon. This report assessed the likely outcomes and risks posed by climate change on human and natural systems in the Basin, and recommended approaches for increasing the capacity of these systems to resist and adapt to those changes.


The Rogue River Basin is located in southwest Oregon and stretches from the crest of the Cascade Mountains near Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 300,000 people live in the Basin, and rely on agriculture, forestry, tourism, and a diversity of other sectors to support the local economy. Climate change is likely to significantly affect the natural systems and resources of the Rogue River Basin, in turn affecting the local economy and residents’ quality of life.

In 2008, the CLI, in partnership with the Geos Institute and the Mapped-Atmosphere-Plant-Soil-System (MAPSS) Team at the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, began a project to analyze climate projections and assess the likely impacts of climate change in the Rogue River Basin. The CLI and Geos Institute released Preparing for Climate Change in the Rogue River Basin of Southwest Oregon to explore the possible consequences of climate change on human and natural systems in the Basin and recommend a suite of strategies for enhancing the capacity of these systems to withstand and adapt to climate change.


The MAPSS Team at the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station began by analyzing projected changes in temperature, precipitation, fire patterns, and native vegetation distribution for the Basin. The Geos Institute and the CLI presented these projections to a panel of scientists and natural resource managers to assess the likely impacts of climate change on natural systems (e.g., aquatic and terrestrial species and habitats). This panel was also asked to identify strategies for increasing ecological resistance and resilience and suggest additional approaches to facilitate ongoing learning and adaptation. Using these findings, a panel of managers and policy experts identified the likely risks to built infrastructure, economic systems (e.g., agriculture, forestry, business), and human systems (e.g., health, education, emergency services). They also recommended strategies and policies to enhance the capacity of these systems to withstand and adapt to climate change.

Outcomes and Conclusions

A number of strategies were recommended to prepare natural, built, economic, and human systems for the impacts of climate change. These strategies are covered in detail in the report. In addition, panelists recognized the need for new and expanded systems of governance in the Rogue River Basin; for example, the need for new mechanisms that are better suited for future climate conditions. Recommendations put forth included:

  • Incorporating climate change into public and private plans and policies;
  • Focusing on the future range of variability, rather than the historic range;
  • Utilizing scenario planning;
  • Shifting management goals and decision making to the landscape level;
  • Seeking co-beneficial actions;
  • Increasing collaborations on planning and decision making teams;
  • Focusing and improving information gathering and monitoring systems; and
  • Increasing public understanding.

This report was intended as a starting point for addressing climate change impacts in the Rogue River Basin. It is part of a larger initiative aimed at developing integrated climate preparation plans and policies for the Klamath, Upper Willamette, and Umatilla Basins. A common theme identified by all groups was the need for integrated, co-beneficial climate preparation plans and policies. Additional climate research and adaptation planning in the Rogue River Basin has been undertaken by the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative (The Rogue Basin Action Plan for Resilient Watersheds and Forests in a Changing Climate) and the Southwest Oregon Adaptation Partnership (Developing and Implementing Climate Change Adaptation Options in Forest Ecosystems: A Case Study in Southwestern Oregon, USA).


Kershner, J. (2021). Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations in the Rogue River Basin [Case study on a project of the Geos Institute]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: (Last updated October 2021)

Project Contacts

Position: Climate Change Scientist

Affiliated Organizations

The GEOS Institute is a nonprofit, science-based organization dedicated to helping both human and natural communities predict and prepare for a changing climate. To this end, the Geos Institute applies the best available science to natural resource conservation issues through its scientific publications and its ability to link respected scientists to decision makers.

The Resource Innovation Group (TRIG) is a 501(c)(3) that provides innovative solutions to the challenges of sustainability, climate change and other social, economic and ecological concerns. TRIG was founded in 1996, as an affiliate of the Portland State University Hatfield School of Government. In 2005, TRIG established the Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI) with a specific mission of fostering the development and application of innovative thinking and approaches to the complex causes and solutions to climate change.

Related Resources

Adaptation Phase
Sharing Lessons
Sector Addressed
Climate Justice
Conservation / Restoration
Culture / Communities
Disaster Risk Management
Education / Outreach
Land Use Planning
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
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