Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: Building Agricultural Resilience
September 22-23, 2015
The workshop was attended by 70 participants, including students and faculty from the University of Puerto Rico, Agricultural Extension agents, government representatives from municipal authorities and the local Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, private businesses, growers, consultants, and USDA personnel. The broad range of stakeholders reflects a deliberate effort on the part of the CCSH to provide a platform for information sharing across departmental and agency divides. The objectives for the GHG Mitigation and Adaptation workshop were: Communicating strategies of USDA Building Block Teams to local USDA agencies and partners, Fostering and expanding cooperative stakeholder networks, Sharing climate science communication strategies, Facilitating information sharing and partnerships among Hub network cooperators, Hearing from local and federal partners what adaptation/mitigation efforts are underway, and sharing information regarding tools and resources that are currently being employed to overcome barriers, and gathering input about what tools, information, and/or technology may be developed to facilitate regionally specific adaptive practices among local advisors and producers.
Read or download full workshop report (below)
Climate Hubs in the Americas
August 18-19, 2015
About 40 participants representing governmental and non-governmental organizations in Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Barbados, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica met for a two-day workshop with USDA representatives from the National Hub Network, Southwest Regional Climate Hub, Caribbean Climate Hub and the Foreign Agricultural Service. The workshop enabled international participants to examine the USDA Regional Climate Hub model at the US Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Puerto Rico. The group explored opportunities for institutions to interact with the USDA Hubs and to establish and support similar networks throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and support greater collaboration in addressing climate change issues in agriculture and forestry.
Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability & Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies in the US Caribbean
Agriculture and forestry practices in the U.S. Caribbean have had 500 years of North American, European, and African influence, as well as the legacy of indigenous cultures and farming practices. There is also a century of high caliber research in agriculture and forestry at local universities, Federal research agencies, and affiliated partners. In the last century, Puerto Rico and the Island economies have shifted from agricultural self-sufficiency to economies that rely heavily on imported lumber and food products. However, the climate, soils, and available land and water are very conducive to high productivity and there is widespread interest in working to reinvigorate the contribution of forestry and agriculture to the economy, job creation, and improving the quality of life. Current important crops in the U.S. Caribbean include coffee; grass and pastureland for dairy cattle and other livestock; fruits, vegetables and root crops; and ornamental products. Forestry and agricultural products are obtained from a wide range of plant species and cultivars that are produced in a diverse array of ecosystems, and they exhibit significant variations in pest resistance and heat and water stress tolerance.
According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate is expected to warm and dry over the next century, with increasingly intense storm events. This may lead to both increased drought and increased susceptibility to flooding. The region’s wide array of crops will exhibit a range of responses to these changes and a detailed understanding is needed of both crops and climate to develop effective adaptation plans. As a whole, the forestry and agricultural sectors in the Caribbean are highly vulnerable to climate change effects for a number of reasons:
- Threats to food security;
- New vulnerabilities to pests that affect humans, livestock, wildlife and plants;
- Sea level rise and saltwater intrusion that affect coastal populations and prime agricultural lands;
- There is limited land available for growth and migration;
- The Caribbean is a global biodiversity hotspot;
- Unemployment and poverty levels are among the highest in the United States;
- A majority of farms lack access to specialized expertise, information, research, or equipment to adapt to climate change, and/or lack the ability to make needed adjustments to their production systems.
The Caribbean Climate Hub is working to reduce the risks climate change may bring to the agriculture and forestry sectors by serving as a framework to enhance the USDA response by: developing and delivering research and information that will increase local productivity; supporting innovative products and markets, providing regular vulnerability assessments; developing tools for farmers and managers to increase their adaptive capacity; and serving as a clearinghouse for information on climate, agriculture, and forestry in the Caribbean.
Vulnerability Assessment (click to read and download)
Climate change and coffee: assessing vulnerability by modeling future climate suitability in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico
Recent climate projections indicate Puerto Rico is expected to become warmer and drier over the next few decades. In this scenario, coffee, one of the the island’s most iconic crops, may experience less favorable growing conditions. A new study by the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub, based at the Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, indicates top producing municipalities in Puerto Rico may find that to 80% of areas highly suitable growing coffee become less suitable by 2070 if global greenhouse gas emissions remain high and temperatures increase as projected.
The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, is the first to use fine-resolution climate projections for Puerto Rico to model the potential effects of warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns on coffee growing conditions. It shows how the range of suitable climates might shift over the next several decades for the two most widely-cultivated species in Puerto Rico, Coffea arabica (Arabica) and Coffea canephora (Robusta). Arabica accounts for the majority of production in Puerto Rico and the world. It is more sensitive to high temperatures and potentially more vulnerable than Robusta to the effects of climate change. High temperatures and low precipitation levels can result in diminished coffee quality and yields, as well as increased exposure and sensitivity to insects and diseases.
The Puerto Rican coffee sector has historically relied on high quality C. Arabica to compete with the industrial scale productivity of larger countries. These varieties are very sensitive to seasonal rainfall patterns and warmer temperatures which can affect how the plants grow, when they ripen, and the quantity and quality of the final product. Mid to high emission scenarios are projecting temperature increases that, without adaptation, will make growing traditional varieties of Arabica very challenging. Changes in precipitation patterns can cause coffee to ripen at different times and may exacerbate labor issues in the industry as harvest seasons become less-well defined.
The projected increase in mean annual temperature is associated with increases in greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities worldwide. Greenhouse gases (GHGs), which include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and others, trap solar radiation in the earth’s atmosphere. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has constructed a range of scenarios based on the use of fossil fuels, economic growth and human development worldwide that project GHG emissions into the future. Climate modelers use these scenarios to produce a range of potential future changes in the earth’s climate.