Potential impacts of overlapping land-use and climate in a sensitive dryland: A case study of the Colorado Plateau, USA

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Abstract

The combination of co-occurring climate change and increasing land-use is likely to affect future environmental and socioeconomic conditions in drylands; these hyper-arid to sub-humid landscapes are limited by water resources and prone to land degradation. We characterized the potential for geographic overlap among land-use practices and between land-use and climate change on the Colorado Plateau - a dryland region experiencing rapid changes in land-use and facing aridification. We characterized spatial patterns and temporal trends in aridification, land-use, and recreation at the county and 10-km2 grid scales. Increasing trends and overlapping areas of high intensity for use, including oil and gas development and recreation, and climate drying, suggest areas with high potential to experience detrimental effects to the recreation economy, water availability, vegetation and wildlife habitat, and spiritual and cultural resources. Patterns of overlap in high-intensity land-use and climate drying differ from the past, indicating the potential for novel impacts and suggesting that land managers and planners may require new strategies to adapt to changing conditions. This analytical framework for assessing the potential impacts of overlapping land-use and climate change could be applied with other drivers of change or to other regions to create scenarios at various spatial scales in support of natural resource planning efforts.

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Copeland, S. M., Bradford, J. B., Duniway, M. C., & Schuster, R. M. (2017). Potential impacts of overlapping land-use and climate in a sensitive dryland: A case study of the Colorado Plateau, USA. Ecosphere, 8(5). https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.1823

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