Changes in climate may lead to complex environmental interactions that could present unprecedented challenges for land managers, natural resource professionals, local businesses, conservation professionals and national park managers. Fire, drought, insect infestations and invasive species present pervasive challenges to the management of SW Colorado's public lands and National Parks, and many of these changes are already being documented. Future decision-making depends on our understanding of how these environmental factors are affected by changes in climate, and to what degree changes in climate will take place. While it is possible to identify trends within these changes, even the best available science is unable to provide precise predictions of what the next 10-20 years will look like. Use this webpage to find relevant, up-to-date information on important trends affecting wildland and private-public landscapes of the San Juan Mountain region in southwest Colorado. Whether you are member of the community, decision maker, or land manager, you will find useful information on relevant natural resources and human livelihoods that are sensitive to changes in our climate.
Social and Ecological Resilience in Southwest Colorado Partnership
MSI, University of Montana, The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Heritage Program, United States Geological Survey, Western Water Assessment, and North Central Climate Science Center partnered to develop a series of tools and resources to evaluate and examine possible future changes that might take place in the SW Colorado landscape and to understand the impact of those changes on natural processes, local economies, and social and environmental factors. A secondary goal was to introduce participants to a scenario process that can be used to support decisions in the context of uncertainty.
Scenario planning is a tool used by managers to explore the possible outcomes due to a changing climate based on imperial scientific evidence. Scenario planning does not predict the future; rather it provides a context for understanding complex environmental interactions based on possible future conditions, and provides a basis for which to plan.
The scenarios represent three different futures – a hotter drier future, a warmer future where annual precipitation remains roughly the same but with seasonality changes, and a future with high inter annual variability between hot dry years followed by cold wet years. These scenarios were developed with projected seasonal climate data provided to us by Dr. Imatiaz Rangwala (climatologist with Western Water Assessment and NOAA) for the year 2035. Ecological implications were developed by Renée Rondeau (ecologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program). Ecological experts reviewed and edited the Scenarios.
In the spring of 2017 MSI and our partners recorded the Social-Ecological Resilience and Changing Landscapes Webinar Series. The webinars integrated key social, ecological and climate components that influence climate adaptation. They highlighted landscapes from piñon-juniper woodlands, and seeps, springs and wetlands to help identify intervention points and strategies to reduce impacts of climate change on people and nature.
Climate Adaptation - where to learn more
The National Conservation Training Center partnered with the North Central Climate Science Center and the Mountain Studies Institute to offer two climate-smart conservation courses together in Durango, CO in 2017. For an introduction to climate adaptation, we recommend the guide Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice.