Water balance as an indicator of natural resource condition: Case studies from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Global Ecology and Conservation
By: , and 

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Abstract

Managing climate impacts to natural resources in protected areas can be hampered by lack of monitoring data, poor understanding of natural resource responses to climate, or lack of timely condition assessments that can inform management actions. Here we demonstrate the utility of water balance as a tool for understanding natural resource responses to climate by developing case studies focused on stream flow, vegetation production, and wildfire ignition at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (GSDNP), U.S.A. The efficacy of water balance to predict these responses stems from the explicit integration of climate with site conditions that modify the effects of climate. This in turn results in estimates of water availability, water use, and water need that are proximal drivers of aquatic and terrestrial natural resource conditions. The water balance model successfully forecasted stream flow (r2 = 0.69, P < 0.001); determined the critical water needs for maintaining annual vegetation production in different vegetation types spanning a large environmental gradient (r2 = 0.18–0.71); and predicted proportion of historic wildfire ignitions in forest (r2 = 0.96–0.99) and non-forest (r2 = 0.96–0.97) vegetation types. Collectively, these case studies demonstrate practical approaches to translate climate data into assessments of natural resource condition that inform long-term planning and near-term strategic actions needed for conservation of protected areas.

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    Additional publication details

    Publication type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Title Water balance as an indicator of natural resource condition: Case studies from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
    Series title Global Ecology and Conservation
    DOI 10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01300
    Volume 24
    Year Published 2020
    Language English
    Publisher Elsevier
    Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
    Description e01300, 17 p.
    Country United States
    Other Geospatial Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
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