Global Change, Vulnerability, and Resilience: Management Options for an Uncertain Future

Dr. Craig Allen | University of Nebraska, Lincoln



The objectives of this project are to develop models to detect ecological regime shifts in space and time, identify components of adaptive capacity relevant to resilience, and identify species and techniques that may serve as leading indicators of thresholds of changing ecological regimes.

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Technical Approach

This project will utilize monitoring and survey data that are currently available in North America (e.g., Breeding Bird Surveys) and develop novel statistical tools and theory to assess long-term trends in resilience of landscapes, detect changes in ecological regimes in both space and time, and identify species vulnerable to decline and extinction, with a focus on the management of Department of Defense (DoD) lands. These goals will be accomplished using advanced spatial and time series modeling and discontinuity analysis to quantify how core attributes of resilience (within-scale and cross-scale distributions of species and their functional traits) change over time in ecosystems and landscapes. In addition, the significance of individual species to the adaptive capacity and resultant resilience of ecosystems and landscapes will be evaluated. These analyses will be conducted over broad landscapes within the United States to provide context and with data from DoD installations, in particular Eglin Air Force Base, Florida and Fort Riley, Kansas.

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Rapid environmental change may alter the ability of the DoD to maintain readiness and may require costly remediation and mitigation when formerly abundant species become rare. The uncertainties associated with global change, including climate change, support the need for a framework that enables the explicit incorporation of non-linear responses of complex systems. This project will address this uncertainty by: (1) identifying ecosystems with potential current high vulnerability to global change (risk of an impending regime shift), (2) developing an ecosystem vulnerability map for the conterminous United States (east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Appalachian Mountains), and (3) developing a conceptual vulnerability model for management. The model will make explicit how the identification of spatial and temporal scales most sensitive to environmental change can be used for management: for example, through targeting the reinforcement of critical functions at specific scales. The model ultimately will provide recommendations for how systems can be managed to avoid undesired regime shifts. (Anticipated Project Completion - 2019)

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Dr. Craig Allen

University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Phone: 402-472-0229

Program Manager

Resource Conservation and Resiliency