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Visualizing Ecological Drought Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Drivers to Inform Deliberate Decision-Making

NIDIS Supported Research
NIDIS-Supported Research
Main Summary

Droughts of the 21st century are characterized by hotter temperatures, greater spatial extent, and longer duration. Reductions in water available to natural systems are increasingly exacerbated by human water use. This situation leads to ecological impacts from drought that ripple through human communities which depend on those ecosystems for critical goods and services. Despite the high costs to both nature and people, current drought research, management, and policy perspectives often fail to evaluate how drought affects ecosystems and the “natural capital” they provide to human communities. Integrating ecological drought into decision-making is an essential step toward addressing the rising risk of drought in the 21st century. However, ecological drought is a relatively new concept, and it requires development before it can be truly integrated into decision-making efforts to prepare for and respond to drought.

This project will provide a foundation of understanding ecological drought vulnerability to support participatory planning processes that integrate ecological drought. The team will produce integrated science products to improve our understanding of how drought indices, landscape context, ecological condition, and human water use relate to ecological thresholds. This will allow natural resource managers and drought planners to better anticipate ecological impacts and downstream effects on human communities. 

For more information, please contact Britt Parker (

Research Snapshot

Research Timeline
September 1, 2020 - August 31, 2022
Principal Investigator(s)

Shelley Crausbay, Conservation Science Partners

Co-Principal Investigator(s)

Kim Hall, The Nature Conservancy;
Molly Cross, Wildlife Conservation Society;
Jason Dunham and Colin Penn, U.S. Geological Survey

Project Funding
Coping with Drought FY 2020
Focus Areas (DEWS Components)

Results of This Research

Data release: Penn, C.A., Dunham, J.B., Markstrom, S.L., Overstreet, B.T., and Stratton, L.E., 2023, Simulated streamflow and stream temperature in the Donner und Blitzen River Basin, southeastern Oregon, using the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System (PRMS): U.S. Geological Survey data release.

Key Regions

Research Scope