Anthropogenic factors, including regional climate change, have altered habitats, causing changesin native populations and threatening the sustainability of natural resources. Rapid changes in environmental conditions (e.g., increases in water temperature, changes in river flows) affect ecosystem health and function, as well as alter resource use and land practices. The interactionsbetween ecological and social processes contribute to a dynamic system within which the activities of one process interacts with the other process.
Nebraska’s land is 97% privately owned, so the need to understand how landowner activities affect fish and wildlife populations and the health of natural systems is a central concern. Management practices such as vegetation buffers and wetland restoration can decrease local runoff of agricultural contaminants into freshwater systems, but treatments are typically applied opportunistically rather than as part of a landscape-level integrated management program. A coupled systems approach, which incorporates human perceptions of watershed management plans and the ecological responses of aquatic systems, is a powerful framework to evaluate ecosystem health in the context of dynamic change.
We seek to assess the resilience of wild populations to climate change in the context of other anthropogenic activities, and evaluate how human perceptions of management may facilitate sustainability.