National Drought Mitigation Center

A Communication Framework for Ecological Drought Information in the Southwestern U.S.

Climate change and increased anthropogenic activities have led to the emergence of a recently defined novel form of complex drought conditions called ecological drought. Ecological drought is driving ecosystem changes that have direct impacts on human livelihoods. For example, a recently observed drought-driven ecosystem change is the encroachment of woody vegetation and permanent degradation in New Mexico. The state's beef cattle production has declined by approximately 11-20% since 1970 in correlation with increased temperatures and frequency and duration of drought events. These new forms of impact have increased the need for innovative means to deliver information and help stakeholders and communities understand and manage these impacts. As climate change drives more persistent and frequent droughts, it is more critical than ever to effectively communicate with stakeholders and engage those who experience these direct negative impacts.

Though different national and regional entities do provide drought information, in some cases it is not easily accessible, understandable, or usable without additional support. This highlights a knowledge gap related to how to provide an effective and efficient tool that directly reaches out to stakeholders. With partners at New Mexico State University, leveraging funding through NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System Coping With Drought: Ecological Drought program, we are working to fill this gap by developing an effective framework of communication for ecological drought information called EcoDri. This framework will be developed using a co-production model, based on core concepts of public engagement, data science and socio-ecological decision-making, and will efficiently integrate, interpret and disseminate information about ecological drought that is easily accessible, understandable and usable. This will enhance stakeholders' capacity to easily access and understand conditions and impacts and improve their decision-making ability to cope with new forms of drought.

See More Projects