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Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in California Agriculture

John Williams, Stephen M. Wheeler, Josh Perlman, Toby O'Geen, Vishal K. Mehta, Louise Jackson, Allan D. Hollander, Van R. Haden, Victoria Clark | July 31st, 2012

To build public support for adapting to and mitigating climate change, it will be necessary to develop greater awareness of a broad set of biophysical and socioeconomic factors that influence agricultural vulnerability and resilience.

First, the study developed a spatially explicit agricultural vulnerability index for California derived from 22 climate, crop, land use, and socioeconomic variables. Results of the agricultural vulnerability index suggest that the Sacramento?San Joaquin Delta, the Salinas Valley, the corridor between Merced and Fresno, and the Imperial Valley merit special consideration due to their high agricultural vulnerability. The underlying factors contributing to vulnerability and resilience differ among these regions, indicating that future studies and responses could benefit from adopting a contextualized “place based” approach.

As an example of this approach, the research team summarized the findings from a recent study on climate change adaptation in Yolo County. The Yolo County study consists of: (1) an econometric analysis of crop acreages under future climate change projections; (2) a hydrologic model of the Cache Creek watershed that simulates the impact of future climate and crop acreage projections on local water supplies; (3) a countywide inventory of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how it might be used to inform local Climate Action Plans; (4) a survey of farmers’ views on climate change, its impacts and what adaptation and mitigation strategies they might be inclined to adopt; and (5) an urban growth model that evaluates various future development scenarios and the impact on Yolo County farmland and GHG emissions.

Since farmland throughout the state is vulnerable to urbanization, the study also used urban growth projections for 2050 to examine the possible impacts on statewide agricultural production, land use patterns, and soils. Lastly, the study examined two on?farm case studies (Fetzer/Bonterra Vineyards and Dixon Ridge Farms) that highlight the possible benefits of innovative agricultural practices (for example, vineyard carbon storage and renewable energy production from crop residues) that link adaptation and mitigation.


agriculture, climate change

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