The fourth national climate assessment, Chapter 25: Southwest

TitleThe fourth national climate assessment, Chapter 25: Southwest
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsGonzalez P., Garfin G., Breshears DD, Broks K., Elias EH, Huntly N., Maldonado J., Mantua N., Margolis H., Udall B.
Conference NameAmerican Geophysical Union
Date Published12/10/2018

Assessing regional-scale vulnerability of agricultural systems to climate change and variability is vital in securing food and fiber systems, as well as sustaining rural livelihoods. Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners rely on science-based, decision-relevant, and localized information to maintain production, ecological viability, and economic returns. This paper synthesizes the collection of research on the future of agricultural production in the Southwestern United States. The American Southwest is a region of highly variable precipitation. Researchers expect warmer and drier conditions resulting in extended droughts.  A variety of assessment methods indicate the diverse impacts and risks across the Southwest, often related to water availability, which drives adaptive measures in this region. Sector- or species-specific adaptive measures have long been practiced in this region, and will continue to support agricultural production as a regional enterprise. Diversification of crop selection and income source imparts climate resilience for both producers and consumers. Using alternate livestock breeds may offer another adaptive measure to cope with warming temperatures. Amid hotter and drier conditions shared goals of natural resources stewardship and sustainable production have yielded collaborative partnerships poised to adaptively manage resources, such as the Malpai Borderland Group. The persistence and adaptive capacity of agriculture in the water-limited Southwest serves as an instructive example for producers outside the region expecting drier and warmer conditions, and may offer solutions to reduce future climate risk.