finding 22.3 : key-message-22-3

Ecosystems across the Northern Great Plains provide recreational opportunities and other valuable goods and services that are at risk in a changing climate (very high confidence). Rising temperatures have already resulted in shorter snow seasons, lower summer streamflows, and higher stream temperatures and have negatively affected high-elevation ecosystems and riparian areas, with important consequences for local economies that depend on winter or river-based recreational activities (high confidence). Climate-induced land-use changes in agriculture can have cascading effects on closely entwined natural ecosystems, such as wetlands, and the diverse species and recreational amenities they support (very high confidence, likely). Federal, tribal, state, and private organizations are undertaking preparedness and adaptation activities, such as scenario planning, transboundary collaboration, and development of market-based tools.

This finding is from chapter 22 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

The chapter lead (CL) and coordinating lead author (CLA) developed a list of potential contributing authors by soliciting suggestions from the past National Climate Assessment (NCA) author team, colleagues and collaborators throughout the region, and contributors to other regional reports. Our initial list of potential authors also included CL nominees submitted to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The CL and CLA discussed the Northern Great Plains, which was part of the larger Great Plains region for the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3), with each of these nominees and, as part of that discussion, solicited suggestions for other nominees. This long list of potential contributing authors was pared down by omitting individuals who could not contribute in a timely fashion, and the list was finalized after reconciliation against key themes within the region identified by past NCA authors, the CL and CLA, and contributing author nominees. The team of contributing authors was selected to represent the region geographically and thematically, but participants from some states who had agreed to contribute were eventually unable to do so. Others were unable to contribute from the start. The author team is mostly composed of authors who did not contribute to NCA3.

The CL and CLA, in consultation with past NCA authors and contributing author nominees, identified an initial list of focal areas of regional importance. The author team then solicited input from colleagues and regional experts (identified based on their deep ties to scientific and practitioner communities across the region) on their thoughts on focal areas. This list informed the agenda of a region-wide meeting held on February 22, 2017, with core locations in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Rapid City, South Dakota. The main purpose of this meeting was to seek feedback on the proposed list of focal areas. With this feedback, the author team was able to refine our focal areas to the five themes comprising the Key Messages of the Northern Great Plains regional chapter. Of these, recreation/tourism is a focus area that is new from NCA3.

Description of evidence base:

State-level surveys, conducted roughly every five years, have consistently documented that the public spends millions of days each year (over $30 million in 2011) participating in nature-based recreation activities in the Northern Great Plains (e.g., U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Commerce 2008, 2013a, 2013b, 2014a, 2014bff8fa307-6c14-4764-83f9-9529b7bd688c,63efa972-abcb-4163-8087-de0b408c59e0,baff476d-dd02-4afb-9b0d-8708fcf4ea85,956ca4c8-7c5a-4b41-b795-513c7ae9f609,fe814136-288f-46e2-ac5f-efa36c045b92). The implications of climate change for outdoor recreation, and tourism more broadly, have been studied extensively around the globe (see summaries in Scott et al. 2012, Rosselló and Santana-Gallego 2014, Brice et al. 2017eb5ece1b-a8cd-4905-80fe-b7382fec52f5,17e82b07-bf50-4664-a0b7-d25ed87cdae5,9b20caa1-adbe-4acd-b5fc-3af925321f08). Region-specific studies are only a small subset of this large body of literature, so our understanding of potential impacts of climate change on outdoor recreation in the Northern Great Plains is sometimes inferred from other regions with similar characteristics (e.g., Hari et al. 200627357507-fb60-44c3-88aa-b7f61dc2f446). Region-inclusive studies are available (e.g., Wobus et al. 201780dd6dfe-4dea-4253-a65b-53f620805f9a) for the sectors most obviously affected by climate change (such as winter recreation). Our understanding is most complete about the implications of climate change for the ecosystems upon which outdoor recreation in the Northern Great Plains depends.f8227953-e2d6-4257-9613-987bc2f1ff79 For example, the implications of climate change for wetlands and waterbirds in the Prairie Pothole Region, upon which much bird hunting and bird watching in the region depend,18042bec-255c-473d-b1fb-e5ca67c5626e,2f97e0c9-039b-48fc-8308-30cf9cfb34ae have been studied extensively over the past several decades (e.g., Johnson and Poiani 2016, Wright and Wimberly 201382d46cbe-ba2f-41a4-8f85-8ec512d62e70,e7c517a5-0183-4b8f-a6ca-852e1f322c1c). The role of agricultural land-use change (as a function of climate change as well as complex technological, policy, and market factors) in the degradation of wetland function in the region—for example through increased soil erosion and resulting wetland sedimentation or upland habitat fragmentation and resulting increases in waterfowl nest predation—has also been thoroughly assessed (e.g., Rashford et al. 2016, Sofaer et al. 201632bd9448-dc7b-4da3-b29a-9c5b081a9b15,b0e7cb51-5acb-4858-8c75-ef2b9445d0ec).

New information and remaining uncertainties:

Climate change is expected to disrupt local economies that depend on winter-based or river-based recreational activities. However, the magnitudes of these effects are uncertain. This is due largely to uncertainties about the preferences of recreationalists and the extent to which they will adapt by shifting the timing and location of their activities or by substituting towards a different set of recreational activities. For example, although climate change will make it more difficult to supply high-quality downhill skiing opportunities, this effect will be stronger in lower-elevation areas. Therefore, some skiers might adapt by simply traveling to higher-elevation downhill ski areas. Others might compensate for the shorter ski season at their favorite lower-elevation mountain by shifting some of their recreational time to an alternative outdoor activity, such as winter mountain biking. Given the potential diversity of individual preferences for adapting outdoor recreation activities to climate change, it is challenging to project with certainty the future potential impacts to recreation-dependent economies, but the impact will be larger and more immediate for some industries and companies (e.g., low-altitude ski resorts).

Another source of uncertainty is the reliance, in some cases, on scientific studies from other geographic locations to infer what the impacts of climate change might be for ecosystems, species, or recreationalists within the Northern Great Plains. For example, the effects of increased stream temperature on the susceptibility of coldwater fish species to diseases in the region are based largely on studies conducted in European coldwater fisheries.

Regarding wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region, uncertainty about their abundance in the future arises from uncertainty about future government policies that would either exacerbate or mitigate climate-induced losses. For example, future versions of the Farm Bill may contain language that directly encourages wetland preservation (e.g., through conservation-compliance requirements) or unintentionally leads to wetland degradation (e.g., through higher subsidies for row crop insurance).

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

We know with very high confidence that ecosystems across the Northern Great Plains provide recreational opportunities and other valuable goods and services. We know with very high confidence that climate change is very likely affecting abiotic factors that influence these ecosystems, such as snowfall, spring snowmelt, runoff, and stream temperatures. There is high confidence that these abiotic factors are likely to affect high-elevation ecosystems and riparian areas in the Northern Great Plains. Greater confidence could be gained by conducting studies specifically within the Northern Great Plains, as opposed to drawing inferences from studies conducted in other regions of the world with similar characteristics. The consequences of ecosystem changes for local economies in the region that depend on winter-based or river-based recreational activities are currently being debated in the scientific literature, due to uncertainty about potential individual behavioral responses to changes in the recreational environment. Based on a limited number of case studies, effects of climate change on outdoor recreation-based economies are as likely as not to be negative, but this is only known with medium confidence. We know with very high confidence, however, that some natural ecosystems that local economies depend upon—in this specific case, wetlands in the Northern Great Plains—are likely to be negatively affected by climate-induced changes in agricultural land use. In turn, we know with high confidence that wetland declines will very likely harm the diverse species and recreational amenities they support. Uncertainty about future policies that could influence agricultural land-use decisions and wetland conservation outcomes precludes a higher confidence level or higher likelihood.

This finding was derived from scenario rcp_4_5
This finding was derived from scenario rcp_8_5

References :

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