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Research Project: Uncertainty of Future Water Availability Due to Climate Change and Impacts on the Long Term Sustainability and Resilience of Agricultural Lands in the Southern Great Plains

Location: Great Plains Agroclimate and Natural Resources Research

Project Number: 3070-11130-006-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 11, 2017
End Date: Mar 10, 2022

Objective 1: Develop new and enhance existing model components and methodologies to better estimate long term trends, variations, and uncertainty in future water availability due to climate change. Objective 2: Determine the impacts of future variation or change in water availability on soil erosion, crop productivity, and resilience and sustainability of managed agricultural lands. Objective 3: Develop long-range planning information for policy makers, environmental organizations, and conservation planners on potential future water availability, cropland productivity, and water and soil conservation options that would maintain or increase the resilience and sustainability of agricultural lands. Objective 4: Develop science-based, region-specific information and technologies for agricultural and natural resource managers that enable climate-smart decision-making and transfer the information and technologies to users.

The Earth’s climate is warming and will likely continue to warm for the rest of this century. In the Southern Great Plains of the U.S., droughts are expected to increase in frequency, duration, and severity, and storm events to become more intense. Climate change poses a new set of challenges affecting future water availability, agricultural soil resources, and long term sustainability of rainfed crop production systems in the Southern Great Plains. The extent of climate change impacts on agriculture at the end of the century is unclear, and information on management strategies and conservation options to effectively adapt to and mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change is limited. This applied, goal-driven investigation uses available projections of precipitation, air temperature, and carbon dioxide levels through year 2100, and relies on agricultural system models to simulate impacts of climate change scenarios on rainfall-runoff, soil erosion, and sustainability of crop production systems. Long term land management strategies, agronomic options, and conservation measures that enhance future water availability, reduce soil erosion, and improve the sustainability of cropping systems are explored, and uncertainties in projected impacts are estimated. Effectiveness and risk of various strategies and options to reduce or offset climate change impacts are determined by evaluation of probability distributions of climate change impacts. Findings are expected to support national and regional strategic planning of alternative long term adaptive conservation measures that maintain effective, competitive, sustainable, and environmentally responsible agricultural cropping systems under changing and uncertain future climatic conditions.