UC Davis part of nationwide USDA research hub on climate change

Published: Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014 - 5:41 pm

The Obama administration has tapped UC Davis as one of 10 sites around the country to be part of a research push on the potential effects of climate change on farms and forests.

Seven “hubs” will represent major regions around the country. UC Davis will serve as a “subsidiary hub,” one of three nationwide, under the larger Southwest hub. It was chosen specifically to address climate change’s effects on specialty crops, ranching and forestry.

“This comes as a result of the administration putting climate change high on their list of concerns,” said microbiologist Daniel Kluepfel, who will lead the Davis group, called a “sub-hub.” “Once that happened, creation of the hubs happened pretty quickly.”

Creation of the hub system doesn’t mean there will be new money for climate-change research this year. But at a news conference last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the recently passed farm bill could bring as much as $120 million in research funds, part of which could be made available to fund hub activities in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Kluepfel said an initial goal will be solidifying relationships between the government agencies, land-grant universities such as UC Davis, and local and state governments that are conducting their own research. At first, the hubs will focus on meetings between the different groups with the goal of passing on practical information to farmers, ranchers and owners of forest land.

“This will address things like the impact of drought, and the effect that broad temperature fluctuations have on new pests and potentially new diseases for crop production systems,” Kluepfel said. The UC Davis sub-hub will be at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service facility on campus.

Mark Schwartz, director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment, said the Southwest hub, based in New Mexico, may prove useful in dealing with myriad questions, such as the effect of climate change on spotted-owl populations and bark-beetle infestations.

Schwartz said he expects forest health, a big issue in Western states, to be part of the sub-hub dialogue. One problem: bark beetles, which infested 21 million acres of forest between 2000 and 2009. In California, 20 invasive species of bark beetles have been identified. Half of those species have been discovered since 2002.

“This is a big issue in the West and something we’ll look at,” Schwartz said.

Call The Bee’s Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

Read more articles by Edward Ortiz

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