Conservationists, farmers, elected officials, community planners, students and resource managers will join research scientists today and Friday in getting down to the business that took them to Silverton for a four-day conference on how to meet the challenges of climate change.
The conference started Wednesday with a reception and welcoming ceremony. On Saturday participants will take field trips to research sites in the San Juan Mountains.
But the core of the conference, titled Managing for Resiliency in the San Juan Mountains: Adaptation and Planning for Climate Change, will be today and Friday.
Sponsors are the Mountain Studies Institute and the San Juan Public Lands Center (Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management). The broad goal is to get stakeholders together to share research and strategies to reduce the effects of climate change on the communities and ecosystems of the San Juan Mountains.
Heidi Steltzer, a professor of biology at Fort Lewis College, set the tone for the conference in her keynote address Wednesday. She shared the content in an earlier interview.
Everywhere. from Colorado alpine regions to the Alaskan arctic, signs of climate change are evident, Steltzer said Wednesday.
Among the signs, she said: shrubs are moving farther north, snow is melting earlier, plants are blooming earlier but their life cycle ends at about the same time, and the number of animal species is declining.
Plant and animal life cycles are changing and species ranges are changing, Steltzer said. In the alpine and the arctic, these changes affect plant production, species richness, animal population size and biogeochemical (nitrogen and carbon) cycles.
Experiments are vital to linking the observed patterns to climate change, Steltzer said.
The U.S. Geological Survey last month released a study co-authored with NASA that found that dust kicked up in the Southwest is accelerating the melting of snow and reducing runoff in the Colorado River basin.
The findings have major implications for the 27 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico who rely on the Colorado River for drinking, agricultural and industrial water, the USGS said. Research shows that peak spring runoff comes as much as three months earlier than before the region was settled and soils were disturbed, but also that runoff may be decreased by more than 5 percent a year compared to pre-settlement levels.
Discussion groups will form Friday afternoon to focus on specific topics such as sudden aspen decline, wildlife, food and agriculture, and solar energy.