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Open AccessArticle

Ranchers Adapting to Climate Variability in the Upper Colorado River Basin, Utah

1
Utah Water Research Lab, Logan, UT 84322-8200, USA
2
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-8200, USA
3
Department of Plants, Soils & Climate, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Climate 2020, 8(9), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/cli8090096
Received: 16 July 2020 / Revised: 12 August 2020 / Accepted: 14 August 2020 / Published: 21 August 2020
In the Upper Colorado River Basin, agriculture is a major contributor to Utah’s economy, which may be stressed due to the changing climate. In this study, two data-mining techniques and interview data are used to explore how climate variability affects agricultural production and the way the farmers have been adapting their practices to these changes. In the first part of the study, we used multilinear regression and random forest regression to understand the relationship between climate and agricultural production using temperature, precipitation, water availability, hay production, and cattle herd size. The quantitative results showed weak relations among variables. In the second part of the study, we interviewed ranchers to fill the gaps in the quantitative analysis. Over the 35 years (1981–2015), the quantitative analysis shows that temperature has affected cattle and hay production more than precipitation. Among non-climatic variables, resource availability and commodity prices are the most important factors that influence year-to-year production. Farmers are well-aware of these effects and have adapted accordingly. They have changed irrigation practices, cropping patterns, and are experimenting to produce a hybrid species of cattle, that are resilient to a hotter temperature and can use a wider variety of forage. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate variability; agriculture; ranching; climate adaptation; Colorado river basin climate variability; agriculture; ranching; climate adaptation; Colorado river basin
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Akbar, H.; Allen, L.N.; Rosenberg, D.E.; Chikamoto, Y. Ranchers Adapting to Climate Variability in the Upper Colorado River Basin, Utah. Climate 2020, 8, 96.

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