What?! Not Old Faithful! The impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species are already evident and significant within the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA). Understanding how these drivers influence wildlands and their consequences for ecosystem management in the GYA are important challenges for scientists and managers. Yellowstone is considered one of the crown jewels of US wildland ecosystems, and managing for change there is critical to Yellowstone’s future and likely to be an inspiration and a model to resource managers elsewhere.
In early November, a range of experts, including agency and NGO scientists, state and local officials, and federal managers met at
Yellowstone to discuss the formulation of science agendas for land management agencies in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA). The science agendas are intended to identify critical information gaps, steer the research community toward the most important science needs of managers, and guide future funding and permitting decisions by the agencies.
Dave Schimel gave the opening plenary talk for the event, and provided a summary and wrap-up at the close of the workshop.
The workshops revealed a couple of interesting points. First, some changes are inevitable and cannot be averted with known management techniques. For example, if temperatures exceed the range for certain species, those species cannot be maintained within the GYA. Second, the history of management in the GYA is filled with cautionary tales where the cascade of consequences from well-intended management intervention led to surprising or undesirable consequences. As one of the US’s largest and most intact wildlands, there is value to surveillance and documenting change, as opposed to resisting changes. At the same time, it was agreed that certain changes needed to be managed with all available tools, especially when success seemed likely.
Participants identified three overarching areas for consolidation of knowledge and new research:
1. Observation and documentation of drivers of change: climate, land use and invasives
2. Measurement of species and process-level sensitivity to change, especially for keystone and threatened species.
3. Research on indirect effects, cascading effects and complex feedbacks, leading to better system-level forecasting.
Further documentation from the workshop can be found HERE.
NEON is one of several organizations that will be carefully watching changes in Yellowstone over the next decades. In addition to having a candidate core site planned for the Park, NEON has planned candidate relocatable sites in the Northern Rockies that will collect data focusing on exurban development and invasive species in the GYA. Understanding climate impacts in Yellowstone and the potential for adaptation to climate impacts, as well as other drivers of change in the park, is a unique opportunity for educating scientists, managers and the public.