Climate change, variability, and drought in the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands: Working with managers to mitigate the impacts of drought and wildfire

A dry grassy landscape
Drought is a growing problem across the Pacific, with each island community dealing with its own aspects of the hazards. (Photo courtesy of A.Frazier)

Some areas of the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) are experiencing a decline in precipitation and streamflow and an increase in the number of severe droughts. These changes can have wide-reaching implications, affecting the water supply, native vegetation and wildlife, wildfire patterns, and the spread of invasive species. As ecosystems become altered by invasive species and as particularly hotter, more variable climates emerge, it is critical that scientists produce locally relevant, timely, and actionable science products for managers to prepare for and cope with the impacts of drought. Simultaneously, it is important that managers are able to both access this information and shape the types of data products required for effective management.

This project aims to inform management responses to the impacts of drought and wildfire across the westernmost jurisdictions of the USAPI: Palau, Guam, and Yap. First, researchers will improve previous efforts to characterize past drought events and wildfires on the islands, resulting in substantial improvements to the mapping of drought and wildfire events. They will then work collaboratively with resource managers in the Guam Department of Agriculture and the Yap Division of Agriculture and Forestry to identify and synthesize actions taken by land managers in response to drought and wildfire in the past in order to establish “lessons learned” and identify needs for future investments. The results of this work will increase the accuracy and accessibility of drought prediction and fire risk warnings in the USAPI and explicitly link these predictions to a suite of operational responses that can increase the capacity of local agencies to reduce the negative impacts of drought across the region.





Abby Frazier
Research Fellow, East-West Center, UH Mānoa


Christian Giardina
Research Ecologist, Inst. of Pacific Islands Forestry, US Forest Service
Susan Cordell
Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service
Clay Trauernicht
Associate Fire Specialist, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, UH Mānoa