National Drought Mitigation Center

Connecting Ecological Drought Monitoring Tools with Natural Resource Stakeholders in Montana

Montana and surrounding states have experienced two high-impact flash droughts during the past five years that were characterized by rapid development during the growing season. They severely affected the local ecology by diminishing forage for herbivores, sparking devastating wildfires and impairing water quantity and quality. In response to the magnitude and diversity of impacts during these droughts, the Montana state government recently initiated a two-year collaborative process to update the state-level drought response plan that was last written in 1995. The National Drought Mitigation Center, with partners at Montana State Unversity and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will take advantage of this rich opportunity to provide guidance to the advisory committee updating the plan regarding state-of-the-art drought monitoring tools and to partner with resource managers to better understand the impacts of ecological drought on forest, range and riparian ecosystems. We are also working closely with partners from numerous state and federal agencies to ensure that project results reach a broad audience representing a range of ecosystems and management needs.

The proposed project, with funding via NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System Coping with Drought: Ecological Drought program, will lead to a deeper understanding of, one, the ability of various monitoring tools to accurately depict ecological drought impacts and, two, how this information could be tailored to ensure its effective use. We are developing ecologically-relevant drought monitoring tools and assessing the ability of traditional drought indicators to accurately represent ecological drought conditions and then using social science methods to understand how these tools could be used to support drought monitoring, planning and mitigation activities. Montana is an ideal testbed for this work because of its complex terrain containing diverse ecosystems, as well as its susceptibility to drought. 

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