White-water rapids (class 5 rapids) of the Tutshi River and Canyon in the British Columbia, Canada. USDA photo by Alice Welch.
All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.
There are many reasons landowners value forests – their iconic beauty, cultural connections, wildlife, recreation, and economic opportunities. More reasons and in-depth information can be found in the USDA Forest Service National Woodland Owner Survey. The bottom line is forests help to sustain our local communities: ecologically, economically, and culturally, and many forests are vulnerable to climate change. These ecosystems are already responding to changing conditions, and climate change is anticipated to have a pervasive influence on forests over the coming decades.
Careful forest stewardship involves long-term planning, which naturally includes the consideration of these changing climate influences. This is especially true in northern forests that formed in cold climates, but are now beginning to experience rapid change. Our northern neighbors in Canada manage 397 million hectares of forests and woodlands (approximately 10% of the worlds forest cover), which face many of the same climate change impacts and challenges that we are grappling with in the United States. Read more »
A vampire bat in Mexico. Photo by Luis Lecuna, USDA APHIS, International Services, Mexico.
All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests. These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.
Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.
The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios. Read more »
Photo: Ned Wood began a life long dream of ranching and he now leads a thriving family business that has endured and will improve the lives of hundreds of his cows, calves and yearlings that graze the approximately 4,000 acres of drought stricken range land in the 6,255 acre East Bay Regional Park District’s Briones Regional Park in Contra Costa County, CA. Image: USDA Results Badge.
USDA is bringing tools and solutions to farmers, foresters and ranchers so they have help confronting climate change while working to produce a global food supply adequate to feed the 9 billion people estimated by 2040 while still protecting the earth’s natural resources.
Today, USDA is launching the fifth chapter of USDA Results, telling the story of how USDA has been working since 2009 with partners across the country and around the world to curb the effects of climate change for a healthier tomorrow. Throughout May, we will be announcing new projects and highlight the progress we’ve made under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, which has made this issue one of his top priorities. Here in the Climate Change Program Office and in Agencies across the Department, we have been busy. Read more »
Dr. Guillermo Ortiz of the University of Puerto Rico and rancher Neftali Lluch of the Lajas Valley in Puerto Rico discuss various practical steps to combat rising temperatures and prolonged drought. Photo credit: University of Puerto Rico
We are living in historic moments in the world’s response to climate change. Last December in Paris, delegates from 196 countries signed an agreement to work towards curtailing greenhouse gas emissions and to keep global warming to “well below” 2 °C degrees. This is a big step, but there is still much work to be done and the agricultural sector has an important role to play. Agriculture, forestry, and land degradation contribute just under a quarter of anthropogenic GHG emissions, mainly from deforestation and agricultural emissions from livestock, soil and nutrient management. Climate change also poses a great challenge for food security and nutrition. It can reduce yields and affect where and how food is produced. As the risks of natural disasters increase, farmers need to modify how they produce food in order to become more resilient to prolonged droughts, excessive rains, floods, and more intense storms. Read more »
Ice weighs down power lines in Oklahoma following winter storm Goliath. Photo credit: The Oklahoma Association of Electric Co-ops
Now that the ice has finally melted and most of us have our power back on, it’s time to start evaluating the effect of the mega winter storm that screamed through the Southern Plains right after Christmas.
As a brief recap, winter storm Goliath hit the Southern Plains on December 26 through 28 leaving in its wake record snow fall in parts of Texas, power outages from ice accumulations of over one inch in parts of Oklahoma, and freezing rain and sleet in Kansas. Record flooding occurred throughout the Southern Plains making December 2015 the wettest on record for most of the region. It’s been estimated that over 40 people were killed by this storm (many coming from the Southern Plains region), making it the deadliest weather system recorded in 2015. The storm spawned 24 tornadoes, numerous flooding events, and left hundreds of thousands without power. Read more »
Potato production is an important part of the Black Brook Watershed’s landscape. Photo credit: J. Owen /Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
When thinking about how to reduce run-off from potato fields in New Brunswick, Canada, researcher Josée Owen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada turned to a tool created by Mike Dosskey, a U.S. Forest Service researcher at the USDA National Agroforestry Center.
With others at the University of Kentucky and the Forest Service, Dosskey created AgBufferBuilder, a GIS-based computer program used for designing vegetation buffers around agricultural fields. Soil can erode, and fertilizer and pesticides off of fields while suspended in water. Buffers with trees, shrubs and other plants help to filter this water by trapping sediment and nutrients. Read more »