Greater Yellowstone Area Science Agenda Workshop -- November 4-5, 2009

Climate Change, Land Use Change, and Invasive Species as Drivers of Ecological Change in the Greater Yellowstone Area

Climate change, land-use change, and invasions of non-native species are external drivers that threaten to dramatically alter the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA). Understanding how these drivers influence wildlands and their consequences for ecosystem management in the GYA are important challenges for scientists and managers. A workshop, held on November 4 and 5, 2009, brought together topical experts, agency and NGO scientists, and managers to identify high-priority science needed over the next 10-20 years. This effort was needed to support the formulation of science agendas (a follow-up exercise) for land management agencies in the GYA. The science agendas are vision documents intended to identify critical information gaps, steer the research community toward the most important science needs of managers, and guide future funding and permitting decisions by the agencies. A review of past and current research (annotated bibliographies) and monitoring that addresses the three drivers, and a written summary of the current funding mechanisms available to facilitate science in the GYA was compiled and made available to workshop participants by Montana State University’s Big Sky Institute (BSI). The geographic scope of inquiry (e.g., review of existing and ongoing science) by workshop participants was unconstrained by jurisdictional or ecosystem boundaries. However, the list of priority science projects for each driver will emphasize applications to GYA wildlands, an area that will be mapped and known to participants. The workshop included concurrent breakout sessions for each driver, each attended by about seven individuals with science expertise on the topic and three agency managers or scientists. Invitations to prospective workshop participants were made based on (a) their research experience and familiarity as scientists with a particular driver at a regional, national, or international level, or (b) based on their experience as scientists or managers of GYA wildlands. Cross-fertilization and input between groups occurred during several combined sessions.

Workshop Objectives

  1. Review current understanding of how climate change, land-use change, and invasive species act as drivers of ecological change in the GYA over a 10-15 year time period, using expertise of participants as well as using analyses and summaries of past science.
  2. Identify the critical knowledge gaps and science needed by managers over the next 10-20 years to adaptively address expected changes and challenges associated with the drivers.
  3. Prioritize the needed science for each driver, and make recommendations on how science agendas can be strategically implemented based on existing institutional capacities, and identify needs for new capacity as appropriate.
  4. Identify the next steps (who, what, and when) in generating written workshop products and developing science agendas.