Climate Change Scenario Showcase

On this page you'll find reports and publications related to NPS efforts toward scenario planning for a changing climate.
View of Devils Tower in the distance with fall foliage in the foreground
Fall foliage brings bright colors to the trees at Devils Tower.

NPS Image Courtesy of Avery Locklear

Climate Change Scenario Planning for Resource Stewardship: Applying a Novel Approach in Devils Tower National Monument, 2020

This report [8.5 MB PDF] introduces scenario planning as a climate change adaptation tool, then describes how it was applied to Devils Tower National Monument in the context of a first-of-its-kind, pilot project to dovetail scenario planning with NPS Resource Stewardship Strategy (RSS) development. An RSS is a long-range planning tool for a National Park Service unit to achieve its desired natural and cultural resource conditions, and therefore can benefit from a flexible tool for working with climate change uncertainty. This report documents the climate-resource scenario development part of the overall process and complements RSS supplemental guidance that draws on lessons from the Devils Tower project to describe how to incorporate climate change scenario planning outcomes into an RSS.
Aerial view of a verdant valley with mountains in the background
Chisos Basin including Ward Mountain and the flow path towards Oak Spring

NPS Image Courtesy Max Woolley

Implications of Climate Change for the Water Supply of the Chisos Mountains Developed Area, 2019

Groundwater discharged from Oak Spring currently serves as the sole water source for the Chisos Basin--a hub of visitor infrastructure and services within Big Bend National Park. Given a known link between precipitation and spring discharge, the NPS undertook an analysis to clarify which strategies and investments might be best at Oak Spring given climate change projections, or whether the park should seek to develop an alternative water source. The resulting report [5 MB PDF] helps clarify the relationship between Oak Spring and contemporary climate conditions, and uses projected future climate to assess long-term reliability of discharge from the spring.

Vector illustration of landscape featuring forest fires, flooding, grasslands, heat, and rain
Large bison standing in a prairie in Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park provides the largest area for bison to range freely in the Great Plains.

NPS Image by Brad Barker.

Implications of Climate-Resource Scenarios for Badlands National Park Resource Management

Badlands National Park hosts a myriad of natural and cultural resources, including bison and black-footed ferrets, the mixed grass prairie in which they live, and historic buildings, trails, and roads. All are sensitive to climate, but anticipating precisely how climate change will affect each is difficult. Despite this challenge, park resource managers must make forward-looking decisions and act to meet resource management goals.

This recently published project brief [2.7 MB PDF] summarizes results of a collaborative effort—involving resource managers, subject-matter experts, and a larger climate change adaptation team—to identify potential climate impacts and management responses in Badlands National Park.

Aerial view looking at grassy valley surrounded by reddish-brown badland formations
Scenic view of Badlands National Park

South Dakota Scenario Planning Workshop Summary

This workshop summary report summarizes project work for public and tribal lands in the southwest South Dakota grasslands focal area, with an emphasis on Badlands National Park and Buffalo Gap National Grassland. The report explains scenario planning as an adaptation tool in general, then describes how it was applied to the focal area in three phases. Priority resource management and climate uncertainties were identified in the orientation phase. Local climate summaries for relevant, divergent, and challenging climate scenarios were developed in the second phase. In the final phase, a two-day scenario planning workshop held January 20-21, 2016 in Rapid City, South Dakota, featured scenario development and implications, testing management decisions, and methods for operationalizing scenario planning outcomes.
Aerial view looking down at river with green grassy field alongside. Field contains over a dozen large round depressions
View of Awatixa Village at Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site

North Dakota Scenario Planning Workshop Summary

This workshop report summarizes project work for public and tribal lands in the central North Dakota focal area, with an emphasis on Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. The report explains scenario planning as an adaptation tool in general, then describes how it was applied to the central North Dakota focal area in three phases. Priority resource management and climate uncertainties were identified in the orientation phase. Local climate summaries for relevant, divergent, and challenging climate scenarios were developed in the second phase. In the final phase, a two-day scenario planning workshop held November 12-13, 2015 in Bismarck, ND, featured scenario development and implications, testing management decisions, and methods for operationalizing scenario planning outcomes.
Visitor enjoys Acadia view
A hiker overlooks Acadia National Park

Acadia Scenario Planning Workshop Summary

The Acadia National Park Climate Change Scenario Planning Workshop Summary [4.8 MB PDF] summarizes outcomes from a two-day scenario planning workshop for Acadia National Park in October 2015. The primary objective of the workshop was to help Acadia senior leadership make management and planning decisions based on up-to-date climate science and assessments of future uncertainty. The workshop was also designed as a training program, helping build participants' capabilities to develop and use scenarios.

The "focal question" for this workshop was stated as follows: How should ACAD plan and prepare for climate change and related effects, especially with respect to issues including:

- Coastal and inland infrastructure
- Staffing and park operations
- Ecosystem management
Canada yew in the Apostle Islands forest understory
Canada yew dominates the Apostle Islands forest understory

Apostle Islands Scenario Planning Workshop Summary

The Apostle Islands Climate Change Scenario Planning Workshop Summary [1.7 MB PDF] summarizes outcomes from a two‐day scenario workshop in April 2015 for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin. The primary objective of the session was (i) to help senior leadership make management and planning decisions based on up‐to‐date climate science and assessments of future uncertainty. The session was also designed (ii) to assess the effectiveness of using regional‐ level climate science to craft local scenarios. Finally, it provided an opportunity to (iii) introduce scenarios to participants and further their capabilities in scenario practice.

Isle Royale lake view
A small lake in Isle Royale
Isle Royale Scenario Planning Workshop Report

The Isle Royale climate change scenarios Workshop Report [6.4 MB PDF] summarizes the Isle Royale climate change scenario planning workshop, convened in January 2013 to examine how climate change may affect the park’s resources, with an emphasis on the island’s forests and wolf and moose populations.

Workshop participants developed four divergent scenarios for the period 2013-2050, based on the range of projected climate change. The ‘Least Change’ scenario was the minimum level of expected change, while the other three scenarios incorporated greater climate change and additional associated disturbance events. The ‘Summer Drought, Wind, and Fire’ scenario included punctuated dry summer periods and an increased probability of wind storms. The ‘Warmer than Duluth’ scenario had temperature increases from the high end of projections (+6.5 °F) while the ‘Isle Savanna’ scenario included warm temperatures (+5 °F) and increasingly frequent drought events (i.e., strong precipitation variability). These descriptive narratives present potential futures based on the range of climate projections and scientific understanding of species interactions and ecosystem responses to climate change. Participants then explored several options for resource management within each of the scenarios.

Last updated: April 20, 2020

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