The effects of climate change on agricultural systems: A Southwest climate Hub curriculum unit for 6th-12th grade students

TitleThe effects of climate change on agricultural systems: A Southwest climate Hub curriculum unit for 6th-12th grade students
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsElias EH, Reyes JJon T, Steele C, Bestelmeyer S, Haan-Amato S
Conference NameAmerican Geophysical Union
Date Published10/2019
Conference LocationSan Francisco, California
ARIS Log Number366678

Assessing vulnerability of agricultural systems to climate variability and change is vital in securing food systems and sustaining rural livelihoods. Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners rely on science-based, decision-relevant, and localized information to maintain production, ecological viability, and economic returns. This contribution synthesizes a collection of research on the future of agricultural production in the American Southwest (SW). Research was based on a variety of geospatial methodologies and datasets to assess the vulnerability of rangelands and livestock, field crops, specialty crops, and forests in the SW to climate-risk and change. This collection emerged from the development of regional vulnerability assessments for agricultural climate-risk by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Climate Hub Network, established to deliver science-based information and technologies to enable climate-informed decision-making. Authors defined vulnerability differently based on their agricultural system of interest, although each primarily focuses on biophysical systems. We found that an inconsistent framework for vulnerability and climate risk was necessary to adequately capture the diversity, variability, and heterogeneity of SW landscapes, peoples, and agriculture.  Through the diversity of research questions and methodologies, this collection of articles provides valuable information on various aspects of SW vulnerability. All articles relied on geographic information systems technology, with highly variable levels of complexity. Agricultural articles used National Agricultural Statistics Service data, either as tabular county level summaries or through the CropScape cropland raster datasets. Most relied on modeled historic and future climate information, but with differing assumptions regarding spatial resolution and temporal framework. We assert that it is essential to evaluate climate risk using a variety of complementary methodologies and perspectives. In addition, we found that spatial analysis supports informed adaptation, within and outside the SW United States. The persistence and adaptive capacity of agriculture in the water-limited Southwest serves as an instructive example and may offer solutions to reduce future climate risk. Paper number #ED33A-0935.