by Sheri Englund
Farmers, ranchers, and timber owners are on the front line of climate threats, including floods, droughts, fires, and invasive pests. Seven new regional climate hubs (see full-size version of image above) launched in February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are delivering resource management information to help them adapt to climate change and extreme weather.
Part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the climate hubs combine real-world and online networks to connect government agencies, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and other groups more effectively—while encouraging scientists, farmers, ranchers, and timber owners to communicate. The hubs are spread across the country to address each region’s specialty crops and climate risks and vulnerabilities. The northeastern hub is based in Durham, New Hampshire.
It may be that the climate hubs will play both defensive and offensive roles. For instance, northeastern farmers could start using “cover crops,” plants that are grown on farmland in the off season, says Michael Hoffmann, director of Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Such plants can protect against incoming pests, a side effect of climate change. But simply by growing, they also lock carbon in the soil, stopping it escaping into the atmosphere.
“Climate change is all hands on deck,” Hoffmann remarked. “We need all the partners we can get.”