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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #354930

Research Project: Management Technologies for Conservation of Western Rangelands

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Cascading impacts of climate change on southwestern US cropland agriculture

item Steele, Caiti - New Mexico State University
item Reyes, Julian Jon
item Elias, Emile
item Aney, Sierra - New Mexico State University
item Rango, Albert - Al

Submitted to: Climatic Change
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/13/2018
Publication Date: 5/31/2018
Citation: Steele, C., Reyes, J.T., Elias, E.H., Aney, S., Rango, A. 2018. Cascading impacts of climate change on southwestern US cropland agriculture. Climatic Change. 148:437-450.

Interpretive Summary: A variety of assessment methods indicate the diverse impacts and risks across the Southwest, often related to water availability, which drives adaptive measures in this region. Sector- or species-specific adaptive measures have long been practiced in this region, and will continue to support agricultural production as a regional enterprise. Diversification of crop selection and income source imparts climate resilience for both producers and consumers. Using alternate livestock breeds may offer another adaptive measure to cope with warming temperatures.The persistence and adaptive capacity of agriculture in the water-limited Southwest serves as an instructive example for producers outside the region expecting drier and warmer conditions, and may offer solutions to reduce future climate risk.

Technical Abstract: The interior southwest United States is one of the hottest, driest regions on the planet, yet irrigated cropland agriculture is successfully practiced where there is access to surface water and/or groundwater. Through climate change, the southwest is projected to become even hotter and drier, increasing the challenges faced by farmers across the region. We can assess the vulnerability of cropland agriculture, to assist in developing potential solutions to these challenges of warming temperatures and water scarcity. However, these types of biophysical vulnerability assessment usually generate technological or policy-level solutions that do not necessarily account for farmers’ ability to respond to climate change impacts. Further, there are non-climatic factors that also threaten the future of agriculture in the region, such as population increase, loss of agricultural land, and increasing competition for depleting water resources. In this paper, we assert that to fully address how southwestern farmers may respond to climate change impacts; we must consider both biophysical outcome and contextual vulnerabilities. Future research on individual localities and/or specific commodities and including cross-disciplinary analysis of socio-economic, institutional, cultural, and political factors alongside biophysical factors will help to develop more substantive understanding of system vulnerabilities and feasible adaptive solutions.