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Research Project: Towards Resilient Agricultural Systems to Enhance Water Availability, Quality, and Other Ecosystem Services under Changing Climate and Land Use

Location: Agroclimate and Natural Resources Research

Title: Climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon sequestration: Challenges and solutions for natural resources conservation through time

Author
item STEINER, JEAN - Kansas State University
item Fortuna, Ann Marie

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/16/2020
Publication Date: 10/26/2020
Citation: Steiner, J.L., Fortuna, A. 2020. Climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon sequestration: Challenges and solutions for natural resources conservation through time. In: Delgado, J., Gantzer, C., Sasssenrath, G., editors. Soil and Water Conservation: A Celebration of 75 Years. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society. p. 229-240.

Interpretive Summary: As we moved from the 20th century into the 21st century, it became increasingly clear that we are in the midst of a changing climate. The onset of climate change has been more rapid than projected in many ways and the societal impacts are severe. This poses a challenge to science and research to intensify and accelerate efforts to develop robust new technologies, using a systems approach to avoid unintended consequences of solutions to one problem giving rise the next, often greater, problem. It also places a great burden on practitioners to stay abreast of new understanding and technologies as they respond to immediate needs for conservation on the land. In the face of climate change, action is needed now. It is important to have clear and focused goals so that actions and investments can have the greatest impacts on mitigating climate change risks and helping individuals and communities adapt to the changing conditions. At the Chapter and International level, the Soil and Water Conservation Society has undertaken a number of special projects and communication efforts that relate to climate change. The outcome of these efforts culminating in reports that highlighted increased risk to soil and water conservation for cropland and a need for better understanding and tools to deliver conservation in an age of intensification of precipitation and increased concentrated flow across the landscape. Because of the above concerns and large contrasts in climate, agricultural and forestry systems, and vulnerabilities across the U.S., the USDA established Regional Climate Hubs to identify critical vulnerabilities and impacts and to foster effective communications and partnerships to promote adaptation and mitigation strategies, practices, and technologies. The Climate Hubs have demonstrated enhanced communication within USDA, with other federal, state, and local agencies, and most importantly across stakeholder, practitioner, and researcher networks.

Technical Abstract: Climatic changes often cause or contribute to rapid socioeconomic instability such as in the case of the US Dust Bowl. Effected societies routinely assume such environmental tragedies are beyond the scope of immediate human intervention. The Great Plains Committee report of 1936 contradicted such assumption and described how crop and livestock management, equipment costs, farm size and absentee land ownership from 1910 to the 1930s, played a greater role in the cause of the Dust Bowl than the severe drought alone. Its members concluded that this natural disaster could have been partially avoided by the same means used to remedy the aftermath through implementation of soil erosion control, water conservation, conservation education, economic investments, zoning, grant provisions and relocation of displaced persons. During the same period, the United States soil and water conservation programs, land managers, the public and soil scientists viewed climate as a stationary process due to a lack of knowledge and technology. These gaps prevented most scientists and land managers of the time from understanding the mechanisms behind the cycling of elements and energy between land, air and water limiting their ability to design experiments of sufficient complexity to understand what factors and interactions lead to climatic change. A primary goal of the Agriculture Research Service created in 1953 was to support soil conservation research. Revision of the Clean Water and Air Acts (1960-1970s) resulted in paradigm shifts in conservation management as well as support for infrastructure to collect, archive and aggregate long-term data sets. The passage of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandated National Climate Assessments be delivered to Congress for the evaluation of climate projections, potential impacts for key sectors and regions of the US, as well as adaptation and mitigation options. Current knowledge and technologies have enabled researchers to capture the transient nature of climate and to link climatic effects to crop growth and land management at varying scale. Previous climatic impacts, variations in climate, agricultural and forestry systems, and vulnerabilities across the U.S. necessitated the establishment of the USDA Regional Climate Hubs. The purpose of which is to identify critical vulnerabilities and impacts as well as to foster effective communications and partnerships to promote adaptation and mitigation strategies, practices, and technologies. The Climate Hubs have demonstrated enhanced communication within USDA, with other federal, state, and local agencies, and most importantly across stakeholder, practitioner, and researcher networks.