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Planning for ecological drought: Integrating ecosystem services and vulnerability assessment

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Abstract As research recognizes the importance of ecological impacts of drought to natural and human communities, drought planning processes need to better incorporate ecological impacts. Drought planning currently recognizes the vulnerability of some ecological impacts from drought (e.g., loss of instream flow affecting fish populations). However, planning often does not identify all the ecological aspects in a landscape that stakeholders value, nor does it examine the extent to which those aspects are vulnerable to drought. One approach for identifying ecological aspects is ecosystem services (ES)—that is, the benefits humans receive from nature. To incorporate ecological impacts into drought planning in the Upper Missouri Headwaters (UMH) region (Montana, USA), we combined ES elicitation using the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services and a vulnerability assessment using semi‐structured interviews. We juxtaposed results from the interviews and the ES elicitation to assess which ES might be vulnerable to drought and which impacts from interviews were associated with losses of ES. While both methods suggested common drought vulnerabilities, each method also suggested drought vulnerabilities not reported using the other method. The ES elicitation produced more detail about services present in the UMH ecosystem today while interviews resulted in more discussion about ecological transformation from future droughts. Results suggest that some combination of open‐ended vulnerability assessment methods and ES elicitation using a structured framework can result in greater understanding of ecological drought vulnerability in a given region. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Water and Life > Methods Engineering Water > Planning Water
The Upper Missouri Headwaters Basin (NDRP 2015)
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Engineering Water > Planning Water
Water and Life > Methods
Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems

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