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Posts tagged: Climate Change

100 Years of U.S. Forest Service Research and Development

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

U.S. Forest Service Research and Development celebrates a century of existence this year and while we don’t all get the opportunity to work directly with our researchers and scientists, we all benefit from their contributions.

We are extremely fortunate as an agency to have our own Research & Development branch. It has allowed us to not only develop the science that we need to do our jobs but also to apply it to our present and future initiatives. We are a science-based organization and many of the solutions to the challenges we face derive from the team’s work. Read more »

The Cost of Fighting Wildfires is Sapping Forest Service Budget

Heavy helicopter drops fire retardant

U.S. Forest Service photo by Kari Greer.

Cross-posted from the Seattle Times:

Wildfires are now burning in Washington and across the West, in a year that may become the hottest on record. As our forests go up in flames, so too does the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, putting at risk lives, property, clean air and water, and jobs for thousands.

The number of fires the Forest Service and its partners fight every year is staggering: There have been more than 36,000 fires this year alone. And although we are successful at suppressing or managing 98 percent of fires when they start, the 1 to 2 percent of fires that escape are expensive, constituting 30 percent of annual costs. Read more »

USDA/Microsoft “Innovation Challenge” Offers $60K in Prizes to Software Developers

Farmers have long looked to the clouds for signs of relief, but a new competition launched by USDA and Microsoft will tap the Internet cloud to help farmers and our food systems to adapt to climate change. The “Innovation Challenge” is asking software developers to create applications that will use more than 100 years of USDA data to explore how our food system can achieve better food resiliency.

Climate change will likely affect every aspect of the food system—whether it’s the ability to grow food, the reliability of food transportation and food safety efforts, or the dynamics of international trade in agricultural goods. Even so, we don’t yet fully know how to anticipate and mitigate any negative changes. Read more »

Recognizing the Value of Cleaner Watersheds

A watershed in the Stanislaus National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada region of California

A watershed in the Stanislaus National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada region of California. Photo credit: US Forest Service

The mission of the Forest Service is to “sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” The provisioning of water resources – notably clean drinking water and flood control – is central to this. Growing demand for our water resources, spurred by population growth, and the effects of climate change further challenge the Forest Service to successfully meet the needs of present and future generations.

In the western United States – where water flowing from national forests makes up nearly two-thirds of public and commercial water supplies – water scarcity and wildfire threats have galvanized diverse stakeholders to invest in healthy headwaters. Local communities, public utility companies, businesses, non-governmental organizations and state and local agencies are investing in watershed restoration to avoid catastrophic economic losses. Read more »

Could Forest Thinning Help Ease Water Shortages in the United States?

A river beside forests below a blue sky

Researchers found that thinning could boost water yield, but the results are not proportional. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Planning for the future of the nation’s water resources is more important now than ever before as severe drought grips the West, affecting heavily populated areas and critical agricultural regions. Forests generally yield huge quantities of water—much more than crops or grasslands—but also use a lot of water during the growing season, so some land managers wonder if forest thinning could boost water supplies to people and ecosystems in a changing climate.

U.S. Forest Service researchers from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory tested this idea and found that the results were not so cut and dried. Their findings were recently published in a special issue* of the journal Hydrological Processes. Read more »

The Climate Hubs Tool Shed – An Inventory of Relevant Tools to Help Land Managers Respond to Climate Variability

Climate Hubs Tool Shed screenshot

Users can search using keywords, user-friendly categories, or a combination of variables via the advanced search feature. (Click to enlarge)

Producers want tools that can help implement adaptation strategies to reduce climate-related pressures and ensure the quality of production. They also need information about the effects of climate change on production systems. These range from management of labor resources in specialty crop production, to market demand for nursery crops, to marketing of locally grown produce. The Climate Hubs Tool Shed can be used to develop innovative management systems that increase profitability and product quality across all systems.

Launched in early 2014, USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs were established to deliver science-based knowledge, practical information, and program support to farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and resource managers. To this end, the Hubs are excited to announce the release of the Climate Hubs Tool Shed. The Tool Shed is an online, searchable database of tools (data-driven, interactive websites and mobile apps) that can assist land managers, land owners, and extension professionals in adapting working lands to the impacts of climate change. Users can search using keywords, user-friendly categories, or a combination of variables via the advanced search feature. While many of these tools were developed specifically to adapt to climate variability, several were developed to aid in mitigating the indirect effects of climate change such as drought, pests, wildfire, and extreme weather. Read more »