Integrated Assessment of Climate Change Impact in the Mackinaw River Watershed, Illinois

EPA Grant Number: R827451
Title: Integrated Assessment of Climate Change Impact in the Mackinaw River Watershed, Illinois
Investigators: Herricks, Edwin E. , Donaghy, Kieran P. , Eheart, J. Wayland , Orland, Brian A
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2002
Project Amount: $867,595
RFA: Integrated Assessment of the Consequences of Climate Change (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Ecosystems , Climate Change


The primary objective of the proposed research is to complete an integrated assessment of multiple sector impacts produced by predicted changes in climate using models, standard, and innovative analysis tools in this assessment. The impact assessment will focus on locations in the Mackinaw River watershed in Illinois. Five locations have been selected that provide sector dominance, defined sector competition, or general sector competition. The specific objectives are: 1) Develop sector specific responses to climate change, 2) Identify relationships between, and among, sectors at each site, and among all sites, 3) Apply the impact analysis paradigm to identify and quantify local impacts produced by climate change, 4) Identify mechanisms that produce an adaptive response to climate change while developing sector/system resilience to climate change impact, and 5) Integrate project results with a web-based decision support interface available at the University of Illinois.


This project will identify and quantify the consequences of climate change and climate variability on human and natural systems in the Mackinaw River Basin, Illinois. The Mackinaw River watershed of approximately 3100 km2 (1200 mi2) is one of the highest quality ecosystems in Illinois with water quality rated as excellent, but threatened. Identified threats include agricultural and urban centers. The Mackinaw has been the focus of recent, integrated management activity, which includes major involvement of the Nature Conservancy, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and local watershed groups. The proposed research will focus on the sensitivity and vulnerability of local human and natural systems to climate change, and the adaptive mechanisms that operate in response to impact threats. Climate change phenomena have been categorized based on a sense of the time scale over which a response can be expected and an impact assessed. The impact assessment paradigm selected will operate in the following manner. In a local setting in the Mackinaw River watershed, systems (e.g. human environment) and sectors (e.g. agricultural, municipal), that operate in, or have influence on, the local setting will be identified. For identified sectors, an "elemental" analysis will be performed to identify how each element responds to climate change phenomena (e.g. elements for the agricultural sector might be crop rotation, hybrid selection, etc.). Initial analysis priority will be given to direct effect assessment, although identification of chains of effect that are understood and quantified, or supported by existing models, will also have a high priority. Sector specific analysis will be completed, evaluating elemental response to five categories of climate change phenomena. The proposed analysis will develop site and sector response spectra, which, in turn, will support a consequence and severity determination for an impact assessment. Although the chain of effect analysis is expected to reveal cross and multiple sector relationships, the horizontal integration across sectors proposed in this research will aggregate sector response across systems. This aggregation will first consider sector pairs, and then a comprehensive multiple sector integration.

In this research initial vertical integration is based on specific climate system changes and layers of cross cutting analysis that are defined by impact type. As a starting point for this cross cutting analysis, the following impact types are identified: 1) socioeconomic, 2) environmental, and 3) water resources (both quality and quantity). A second approach establishes single sector impacts as having the highest priority for resolution and then evaluates other sector responses based on criteria selected for the dominant sector. For example, placing agriculture as dominant, would change how impacts might be viewed for aquatic ecosystems, water resources, or municipal operations.

The proposed research has three phases. These phases address separate work activities, but are highly interconnected and will occur concurrently through the research project. Phase 1 will 1) identify climate change phenomena 2) identify, for selected locations in the Mackinaw River watershed, a sector by sector response to climate variability and, 3) the expected change in sector elements, considered singly, and aggregated within and across sectors. Phase 2 will 1) identify local impact of climate change with particular emphasis on economic, environmental, and social impact aggregations, where 2) impact will be first be assessed at the element/sector level, then analyzed for sector pairs and multiple sector integration. Phase 3 will 1) implement a web-based system to support involvement from local collaborators and 2) provide an innovative use of information technology to involve local community elements in impact analysis.

Expected Results:

The proposed research will identify local impact of climate change on a typical watershed in the Midwest that face a range of consequences from climate change. The systematic accounting for element, sector, and system level responses, starting at the local level, will provide an essential compliment to existing downscaling of GCC models. Further, the proposed horizontal and vertical integration, from an impact type focus, will provide important, sector specific information essential to the future successful management of climate change effects. This research also features an innovative use of information technology, the development of a decision support interface, which will provide a valuable adjunct to ongoing community-based management programs in the Mackinaw River watershed. These results will be of importance to local, State and Federal water resources planners and legislators in deciding how best to cope with uncertain anticipated climate changes in the Midwest.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 31 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 4 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

land, soil, precipitation, ecological effects, indicators, scaling, habitat, preferences, public good, environmental assets, social science, ecology, hydrology, measurement methods, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Ecology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, climate change, State, Economics, Ecological Risk Assessment, environmental monitoring, integrated assessments, risk assessment, adaptive technologies, economic models, climate models, Illinois (IL), agriculture, aquatic ecology, climate variability, crop production

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • Final Report