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Perspective ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Environ. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00183

Targeting Extreme Events: Complementing Near-Term Ecological Forecasting with Rapid Experiments and Regional Surveys

  • 1Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University, United States
  • 2School of Natural Resources and The Environment, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, United States
  • 3Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, Northern Arizona University, United States
  • 4Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University, United States
  • 5Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, United States
  • 6Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, United States

Ecologists are improving predictive capability using near-term ecological forecasts, in which predictions are made iteratively and publically to increase transparency, rate of learning, and maximize utility. Ongoing ecological forecasting efforts focus mostly on long-term datasets of continuous variables, such as CO2 fluxes, or more abrupt variables, such as phenological events or algal blooms. Generally lacking from these forecasting efforts is the integration of short-term, opportunistic data concurrent with developing climate extremes such as drought. We posit that incorporating targeted experiments and regional surveys, implemented rapidly during developing extreme events, into current forecasting efforts will ultimately enhance our ability to forecast ecological responses to climate extremes, which are projected to increase in both frequency and intensity. We highlight a project “chasing tree die-off”, in which we coupled an experiment with regional-scale observational field surveys during a developing severe drought to test and improve forecasts of tree die-off. General insights to consider in incorporating this approach include: (1) tracking developing climate extremes in near-real time to efficiently ramp up measurements rapidly and, if feasible, initiate an experiment quickly—including funding and site selection challenges; (2) accepting uncertainty in projected extreme climatic events and adjusting sampling design over-time as needed, especially given the spatially heterogeneous nature of many ecological disturbances; and (3) producing timely and iterative output. In summary, targeted experiments and regional surveys implemented rapidly during developing extreme climatic events offer promise to efficiently (both financially and logistically) improve our ability to forecast ecological responses to climate extremes.

Keywords: Ecological forecasting, Adaptive Monitoring, anticipatory science, disturbance, Climate Change, Climate Extremes, Extreme climatic event, drought

Received: 25 Feb 2019; Accepted: 31 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Redmond, Law, Field, Meneses, Carroll, Wion, Breshears, Cobb, Dietze and Gallery. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Miranda D. Redmond, Colorado State University, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Fort Collins, United States,