SNAPP TEAM:Ecological Drought
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How does incorporating ecological sensitivity into drought relief planning improve longer term outcomes for people and nature?

As global temperatures continue to rise, the intensity and frequency of droughts in North America are expected to increase, leading to a wide range of social and ecological impacts. To ensure that nature and its associated benefits are sufficiently incorporated into future planning for drought impacts, this team is evaluating the breadth of ecological impacts of reductions in water availability and the resulting consequences for both natural and human communities.


OUR APPROACH: This group is synthesizing and connecting information about the impacts of drought on both human and natural systems in order to highlight opportunities to mitigate drought risks.

Team Status: COMPLETED
Team Critical Challenge:

Reframing the Drought Conversation

The team defines ecological drought as “an episodic deficit in water availability that drives ecosystems beyond thresholds of vulnerability, impacts ecosystem services, and triggers feedbacks in natural and/or human systems” (Crausbay, 2017). With this definition in mind, the team created an ecological drought vulnerability framework to help drought researchers, resource managers, and decision-makers understand: 1) both drought exposure and drought sensitivity play a role in ecosystem vulnerability, and each is controlled by natural and human processes, 2) ecological drought’s impacts are transferred to human communities via ecosystem services, and 3) knowing the specific drivers of vulnerability can lead to effective preparedness strategies to reduce ecological drought vulnerability in the future.



“It is time for ecosystems to have a seat at the drought decision-making table, with the realization that an investment in water for nature may also be an investment in water for people. A more holistic planning and research approach that includes ecological drought means both people and nature will be better prepared for the rising risk of drought.”

-Shelley Crausbay, Team member

Key Products
Ecological Drought Impacts, Vulnerability, and Adaptation (ecoDIVA) Framework

EcoDIVA is a process to inform planning by considering the ecological drought impacts that people care about most, the particular vulnerabilities that lead to socio-economic and ecological losses and how those specific vulnerabilities link to opportunities for implementing drought adaptation strategies.

Defining ecological drought for the 21st century

In this peer-reviewed paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the team defines “ecological drought” and proposes a drought vulnerability framework to identify the drought risks that different communities might face.

Adapting resource management to address drought

This SNAPP team hosted a symposium at the National Adaptation Forum that focused on sharing the results of their research thus far.

Better accounting for non-human water needs in drought planning

This analysis revealed that drought planning does not represent enough non-human factors, even among institutions that include ecological measures of fisheries and streamflow. Water management case studies were selected in Western Montana.

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Kimberly Hall
The Nature Conservancy
Molly Cross
Wildlife Conservation Society
Shawn Carter
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Aaron Ramirez
University of California, Santa Barbara
Amanda Cravens
US Geological Survey
Chad McNutt
National Integrated Drought Information System
Deborah Bathke
University of Nebraska & National Drought Mitigation Center
Jamie McEvoy
Montana State University
Jason Dunham
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Julio Betancourt
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Keith Nislow
US Forest Service
Lauren Hay
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Melinda Dalton
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Mike Hayes
University of Nebraska & National Drought Mitigation Center
Nejem Raheem
Emerson College
Shelley Crausbay
University of California, Santa Barbara
Steve Colt
Alaska Pacific University
Todd Sanford
Climate Central
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