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The University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are developing a research partnership to better understand, adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change in the Platte River Basin and the High Plains. The Climate Change 2008 Workshop, “Sustainability in a Time of Climate Change: Developing an Intensive Research Framework for the Platte River Basin and the High Plains” was designed to inventory our mutual research strengths and resources in this area and to bring key stakeholders and decision-makers into the process to build further partnerships.
The native grasslands and farmlands of Nebraska comprise one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world – productivity made possible by the Platte River, which rises in the Rocky Mountains and transects the state, and the High Plains aquifer, the largest groundwater system in North America. These systems sustain a major agricultural economy, native grasslands, river ecosystems, and the North American Central Flyway, which is vital to the survival of many migratory bird species, including threatened and endangered species.
Climate change may present a threat to these critical ecosystems. A lack of robust, dynamic scientific data characterizing this unique ecosystem, including its geologic framework, aquifers, surface waters, land cover, geomorphology and wildlife, combined with deficiencies in modeling capabilities, impede the accurate forecasting needed for the informed decision-making that will enable us to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Addressing these issues will require collaboration involving partners from academia, state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. The participants in the 2008 Climate Change Workshop represented all of these groups and provided valuable perspectives about their challenges and research needs – the beginning of a broad-based partnership to develop a research framework for understanding and adapting to the potential economic and ecological effects of climate change.