Southeastern Virginia marks the northern boundary of the natural range of longleaf pine forests, which once stretched along most of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains from Virginia to eastern Texas. Research aimed at finding the best seed sources to restore longleaf pine forests to southeastern Virginia area is also providing important clues for adapting forest ecosystems to changing climate.
What a day! I am excited and nervous at the same time. Over the past nine months, hundreds of folks have been working together to make the opening of the USDA Southeastern Regional Climate Hub (SERCH) a reality, and today is the big day. SERCH meet world, world meet SERCH.
Now that we have formalities out of the way, what is SERCH? Well, SERCH is for you, if you are a landowner, rural resident, agricultural producer, researcher, policymaker, or anyone who is interested in sustaining the agricultural and forest systems on which we depend. Specifically, SERCH was born to help take decades of scientific research on natural resource disturbances related to weather and climate vulnerability, and convert those studies, data, and knowledge into practical management options for producers, forest owners and land managers across the Southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean. Our region faces many types of disturbances, including wildfire, hurricanes, insects and diseases, and changing land use, just to name a few. All of these challenges are impacted by climate change and weather variability. SERCH will use its enormous collective brain power and experience to develop ways to adapt to these disturbances. Read more »
The Thompson Ridge Fire in the Sante Fe National Forest approximately 10 miles north of Jemez, NM consumed over 29,903 acres. Photo by Valess Calera Trust Kristin Honig.
Those of us living and working in the Southwestern U.S. have recently experienced a prolonged, extreme drought persisting over several years. We have witnessed large, destructive and catastrophic wildfires that have taken both lives and property, observed expansive areas of forest tree death as a result of massive insect outbreaks, and seen our water supplies in reservoirs and dams across the region decline to previously unseen levels. Yet, what can we realistically do in the face of these climatically driven changes that will likely continue and intensify into the future?
Changing climatic conditions in the southwest that impact temperatures, alter growing seasons, increase plant moisture stress, and trigger extreme events directly contribute to these recent regional catastrophes and water scarcities. Recently, a highly respected, third generation public land cattle rancher in our region put it this way: “I believe that the climate is changing. But I can’t accept it. If I do I would just go out of business. I have to cope and go on.” So we are left to look around us and ask what information, tools, and technology can we reach for when it gets tough? Read more »
USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills (ninth from left) visits with Leopold Conservation Award winners at USDA last week. USDA photo.
“Water conservation begins where the first drop of rain falls…most likely on private working lands.” This is a favorite saying of Tom Vandivier, a Texas cattle rancher and 2008 recipient of the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award (LCA).
Tom was one of more than two dozen recipients of the LCA – which recognized landowners for achievement in environmental improvement on agricultural land – in Washington, D.C. last week. I was fortunate to meet with them here at USDA headquarters to talk about the importance of conservation and the need to spread the message that investing in conservation practices on our farm and ranch lands not only protects water, air and wildlife – it also makes economic sense. Read more »
Corn shows the affect of drought in Texas on Aug. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.
I am a research scientist, by nature, training, and now more than 30 years of experience. I hold degrees in Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, Meteorology, and have done research in many sub-specialties of the last two, including climate science. My curiosity about the natural world never slows down, and I am not intimidated by difficult problems. But the research I’ve been doing since 1999 has been the most challenging: how do we transform what we know about weather, weather variability, climate, and climate change into practical advice for farmers and ranchers? This is not just one problem in my mind, but three. Three huge gnarly problems, each close to intractable. But these new USDA Climate Hubs are an opportunity to make progress on all three. What follows are thumbnails of the three problems I have in mind, and then briefly how I see the Climate Hubs providing a handle on them. Read more »
Innovation is at the heart of the American agriculture success story. As a matter of course, today’s farmers and ranchers must constantly prepare and adapt to get ahead of tomorrow’s challenges.
At USDA, we have a long history of fostering research and innovation that help agricultural production thrive. I am pleased that the 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law today by President Obama, includes new support for agricultural research and, through a new research foundation, recommits to innovation for years to come. Read more »
Flooding and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watersheds located in Cavalier, Pembina and Cavalaier Counties in North Dakota on Thursday, May 23, 2013. USDA photo by Keith Weston.
Weather dominates the conversation at local coffee shops and community gathering locations across the Northern Plains. Depending on the time of the year, I’ve heard things like this:
“We sure could use rain – really dry out there. Cattle are going to have to come off the pastures soon.”
“Hoping the rain will break here for a few days so I can get the hay cut without it getting rained on this time.” Read more »