Online Tool to Help Ranchers Plan for Drying Ponds in B.C.’s Rangelands
Official Press Release
December 2016 – A team of researchers from Urban Systems and Thompson Rivers University (TRU), are developing an on-line tool to help ranchers predict the risk of decline to ponds on their rangelands.
A previous study, funded by the Ranching Task Force of B.C., supports what B.C.’s ranchers have known for years – that B.C.’s grasslands closed-basin ponds are drying up due to changes in climate. That’s particularly bad news for local ranchers who graze livestock on grasslands, and rely on ponds to provide a much-needed sustainable water source for their animals.
The Climate Change Impact Risk Assessment Tool will be accessed through the internet and will be preloaded with a B.C. rangeland Geographic Information System (GIS) climate model. Ranchers will provide the other information needed to assess individual ponds, such as the pond location, depth, seasonal fluctuations, surface runoff and surrounding vegetation. The tool will then combine the GIS information with the rancher’s answers to several questions and provide an assessment of either high risk, moderate risk or low risk of decline for the individual pond.
“Once finalized, the tool will help ranchers anticipate how their ponds may react to projected changes in climate,” says Dr. Tom Pypker, Assistant Professor from TRU. “Our main goal in providing this information is to help equip ranchers to proactively plan for how to deal with future water shortages on their rangelands.”
To help refine the tool and make sure it is easy for ranchers to use, the research team is asking ranchers to test a prototype and get involved in focus groups.
“We plan to work closely with ranchers and other end users of the tool to identify whether the tool is asking the right questions of ranchers and if the information provided by the tool is in a format that they can easily use,” says Aaron Coelho, Water Resources Consultant with Urban Systems.
Ranchers at a recent meeting of the Kamloops Stockmen’s Association had an opportunity to try the tool and provide feedback. The ranchers indicated that it would be valuable to have region-wide evidence of water shortages to back up their observations. They also indicated that the tool will need to focus on more predictive capacity to be useful for water management.
This first phase in the project will result in a tool prototype. The team will be seeking alternate funding in 2017 to bring the tool to general use and make it accessible to all B.C. ranchers.
The Climate Change Impact Risk Assessment Tool project is part of the work being delivered by the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative (CAI). CAI develops tools and resources to assist B.C. farmers and ranchers with adapting to impacts of climate change. CAI’s Farm Adaptation Innovator Program engages directly with producers and local partners, providing funding for piloting, demonstration and knowledge transfer around farm level adaptation.
Funding for this project has been provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The project is also receiving in-kind support from Thompson Rivers University, the BC Ministry of Agriculture and the BC Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.
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