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Climate Hubs Help APHIS Adapt to Climate Change

Posted by Scott Moore, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Animals Plants USDA Results
Feb 21, 2017
Climate Change Adaptation Workshop participants
Participants in the climate change adaptation workshop. Photo credit: Joseph Vorgetts

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.

How important will climate change considerations be in your work in the next 3-5 years?  That was one of the questions USDA employees were asked in mid-April at the start of a two-day workshop at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in Riverdale, Maryland.  The hands-on training session, facilitated by APHIS’ Climate Change Working Group, the Forest Service, Northern Forests Climate Hub and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, was designed to help APHIS employees from various program and support units incorporate climate change considerations into their actual projects.

The workshop emphasizes a structured yet flexible adaptation approach developed by the Forest Service to integrate climate change considerations into project planning and activities. The five-step process includes 1) defining the area of interest, 2) assessing climate change impacts, 3) evaluating management objectives, 4) identifying and implementing adaptation tactics, and 5) monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the actions.

APHIS’ Thomas Hall leading group discussion
APHIS’ Thomas Hall leads a group discussion about climate change and feral swine management. Photo credit: John Scott

Workshop participants used this process to analyze how climate variability and uncertainty and shifting geography might affect APHIS’ mission in addressing the presence and movement of agricultural pests and diseases.  For instance, would exotic animal and plant species—already proven to be adaptable to changing conditions—be better equipped than native species to survive climate change?  How might storm surges aid in the spread of wood-borne pests?  How might certain changes in climate in other countries affect shipping routes, import seasons, and other trade issues?

The workshop challenged participants to consider new approaches to adapting to climate change. A majority predicted they would apply the adaptation workbook process to another project in the next year.  Nearly every respondent said they would share what they had learned with people inside and outside the agency.

APHIS’ Richard Walker discussing possible effects of climate change
APHIS’ Richard Walker discusses the possible effects of climate change on emergency management response, with APHIS’ Denise Sylvester (center, an investigation and compliance specialist) and Danielle Shannon (right, USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub coordinator). Photo credit: John Scott

As to the question about how likely climate change considerations would be in their work in the next 3-5 years?  On a scale of 1-10, workshop participants, on average, rated that an 8.

Like the climate, the times, they are a-changing too.

APHIS’ Marlene Cole recording a group's brainstorming efforts
APHIS’ Marlene Cole records a group’s brainstorming efforts regarding climate change on feral swine management. Photo credit: John Scott
Category/Topic: Animals Plants USDA Results