Adaptations to extreme storm events by conservation organizations

Abstract

Extreme precipitation events are associated with increased runoff of sediment and nutrients into surface waters, exacerbating water quality problems and creating challenges for soil and water managers. This change in the hydrologic cycle is expected to intensify under future climate change. Soil and water conservation professionals responsible for advising farmers and other land managers are on the front lines of adaptation to these climate change impacts. This study uses a survey of Soil and Water Conservation District staff (n = 260) in the United States Upper Midwest to better understand adaptation planning and implementation and the factors influencing adaptations by public organizations. In contrast to a typical planning-implementation gap finding, our respondents report a greater emphasis on some kinds of adaptation actions over planning. We find that the concerns of individual government employees about climate change have a greater association with adaptation planning strategies (e.g., planning document updates) compared to implemented adaptations on-the-ground (e.g., stream buffer installation). Also, weather projections were being used in conjunction with both adaptation planning and implementation. This study contributes to efforts to open up the black box of adaptation decision-making in the public sector, revealing the important role of individual concerns and information use.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by National Science Foundation Water Sustainability and Climate grant DEB 1038759 and Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) DGE 1144752. We appreciate insightful comments on the manuscript from two anonymous reviewers. Thanks to all the Conservation District and state Agriculture Department staff who participated in this study, and for their ongoing work.

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Correspondence to Chloe B. Wardropper.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 3 Correlation matrix

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Wardropper, C.B., Rissman, A.R. Adaptations to extreme storm events by conservation organizations. Climatic Change 152, 85–101 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2342-8

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Soil and water conservation
  • Climate change concern
  • Weather projections