Potential Climate Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in the Great Plains

Mark Shafter, Dennis Ojima, John M. Antle, Doug Kluck, Renee McPherson, Sascha Petersen, Bridget Scanlon, Kathleen Sherman
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 7/11/2023

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In the Great Plains, climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts, severe rainfall events, and heat waves. Adapting to changing conditions will require coordination in the research and observation capabilities of multiple organizations, institutions, and government programs. In light of these needs, researchers worked with federal, state, tribal, university, and non-governmental organization partners to (1) synthesize the current state of ecosystems in the Great Plains; (2) assess the ability of human and ecological communities in the region to adapt to climate change; and (3) develop a process to improve future assessments of the vulnerability of the region’s natural and cultural resources to climate change.

A key finding of the assessment is that multiple climatic and non-climatic stressors put agriculture, water, ecosystems, and rural and tribal communities at risk. For example, rising temperatures and a projected increase in extreme summer temperatures in the Great Plains could have significant implications for water availability for conservation efforts, energy production, and agriculture. This project resulted in an improved understanding of the base knowledge of various agencies related to climate change impacts and potential response strategies for dealing with its effects.

Colorado State University (CSU) coordinated with federal, state, tribal, university, and non-governmental organization partners to develop a synthesis of the current state of ecosystems in the Great Plains, relative to climate and other global change stresses, assess the adaptive capacity of the social-ecological systems of the region, and develop a process for which future assessment can utilize expertise and information on key ecosystem services and sectoral components of the region, including natural and cultural resources. Effective coordination involved all key programs in the network, including trans-boundary programs. Coordinating programs and other key partners agreed on roles and responsibilities essential to supporting regional coordination. To the extent possible, coordination within each region supported the National Climate Assessment, and met other coordination priorities in the region. The research and assessment products included documentation of the data used in the analysis, as well as documentation of analytical techniques used.

Project Products:


Shafer, M., D. Ojima, J. M. Antle, D. Kluck, R. A. McPherson, S. Petersen, B. Scanlon, and K. Sherman. (2014). Chapter 19: Great Plains. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 441-461. doi:10.7930/J0D798BC.

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The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.

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