High Plains Regional Climate Center


Document Type






U.S. government work


L and use and land cover change (LULCC) plays an important role in the climate system. Many studies have documented the impacts of LULCC on local, regional, and global climate. The National Climate Assessment Report (Melillo et al. 2014) identifies LULCC as a “cross cutting” issue of future climate change studies. This report, and the previous U.S. Climate Change Science Program strategic plan (2003), noted that land use and land cover (LULC) and its feedback is an important source of uncertainty within the climate system (Melillo et al. 2014). As a result, the report calls for a better understanding of this research theme and recognized it as a high priority within research goal 1 (Melillo et al. 2014). In the recent past, the NRC (2005) and a number of papers in the scientific literature also called for broadening the scope of how we assess climate change (e.g., McAlpine et al. 2010; Pielke et al. 2009). As a result, LULCC has been identified as an important climate forcing by the scientific community. Key research on biogeophysical and biogeochemical impacts of LULCC on climate can be found in Pielke (2001), Feddema et al. (2005), Bala et al. (2007), Denman et al. (2007), Bonan (2008), Shevliakova et al. (2009), Arora and Boer (2010), Hibbard et al. (2010), Brovkin et al. (2013), and Mahmood et al. (2014). Thus, to prepare the United States for future climate change and variability, a sustained assessment of LULCC (both natural and human managed) and its climatic impacts need to be undertaken. To address this objective, this paper proposes a series of action items (Fig. 1). In addition, national-scale institutional capabilities are identified and discussed. Included in the discussions are challenges and opportunities for collaboration among these institutions for a sustained assessment. Ideally, international collaboration should also be pursued but this topic is beyond the scope of this discussion. Moreover, in this paper, references to climatic impacts of LULCC include both biophysical and biogeochemical components. Additionally, the discussion presented here is a follow-up work linked to the activities related to the U.S. National Climate Assessment, and it used selected examples from the United States and referred to the U.S. institutions. However, we suggest that many of these activities are global in nature and other nations have a comparable institutional setup. Hence, these discussions can provide important guidelines or points of discussions for “sustained assessment” for other nations of the world.