The Resource Conservation and Resiliency (RC) program area recently released its Research Plan outlining the focus of RC research investments for 2021 through 2025. These investments aim to accomplish the following:

  • maintain near and long-term training and test capacity;
  • minimize and prevent restrictions to training and testing;
  • manage the natural assets and mitigate the natural conditions that can impact installation infrastructure such as climate change and extreme weather; and
  • ensure safe, efficient, and healthy conditions on the installation.

These objectives support military installations in their drive to meet current policy and directions as set forth in (DoD Directive (DoDD) 3200.15 Sustaining Access to the Live Training and Test Domain; DoDD 4715.1E Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health; and DoDD 4715.21 Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, Change 1 Effective August 31, 2018). To meet these objectives, the RC program area is pursuing three research focus areas. Below are summaries of current and future investments under each area.

Installation Infrastructure for Military Operations

The RC program area has contributed a significant amount of research for improving installation infrastructure resilience over the past ten years. The DoD oversees 1,774 military sites worldwide that are at-risk of coastal flooding, so it is necessary to invest in research and technologies that assess and predict installation and infrastructure vulnerability to the effects of global climate change such as increased flooding and storm damage. The installation infrastructure resilience and adaptation research focus area is focused on improving resilience to climate change and extreme weather events.

To focus their efforts, the research focus area formed the Coastal Assessment Regional Scenario Working Group, which produced the Regional Sea Level Scenarios for Coastal Management report and associated web-based DoD Regional Sea Level (DRSL) database. The RC program recently expanded public access to the DRSL database to allow contracted third parties such as engineering firms to incorporate future sea level change information into installation planning and design services for DoD coastal locations.

Moving forward, research projects will continue to assess and prepare for climate-related impacts to infrastructure, develop statistical and dynamic climate change prediction models, and produce climate resiliency metrics. 

Military Land Conditions on Readiness, Health, and Safety

It is important for the DoD to maintain training land conditions so as not to disrupt or jeopardize military readiness and safety. During military testing and training, there is generally a potential to generate emissions. These emissions often result from dust generation associated with vehicle operation and wildland fires resulting from live-fire training activities. These emissions can pose hazardous environmental and air quality issues. The military land conditions focus area improves natural resource management by addressing erosion and water quality, dust generation, and wildfires and prescribed burns. Investments in this area of research ultimately prevents the loss of training land and improves the health and safety of base personnel and the surrounding communities. This research focus area provides supplemental tools and research to enable and enhance DoD natural resource and range manager decision-making capabilities. Projects will continue to focus on improving DoD fire management tools, making risk-based tradeoffs for frequency and conditions for prescribed burns, managing landscapes to decrease risks from wildfires, and predicting emissions and smoke dispersion patterns that result from wild and prescribed fires. 

Readiness-Ecosystem Nexus

The Threatened, Endangered and Invasive Species (TES-I) research focus area addresses the maintenance and protection of ecosystems on DoD lands. These systems often contain rare and unique habitats. In addition, invasive species can threaten equipment and personnel, as well as impact the planning and logistics involved in traveling across DoD lands. Research in this area advances understanding of threatened, endangered and at-risk species in response to exposure from multiple stressors and improves technologies for managing invasive species.

For 2021 – 2025, this portfolio is not only focused on TES-I research, but also environmental DNA (eDNA) as a management tool, natural capital investments, and preferred system states. eDNA has the potential to improve conservation of terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems with the development of methods to determine the temporal and spatial distribution of eDNA in habitats of relevance on DoD lands. Natural capital investments analyze ecosystem services delivered though the management of DoD training lands and any associated benefits that accrue to the DoD and broader ecosystems. The ultimate goal of this research is to incorporate economic concepts to improve decision-making and balance training requirements, land stewardship, costs, legal drivers, and coordination beyond installation boundaries. Preferred system state research will continue to explore how the phenology of plant and animal species on DoD installations are responding to abiotic features of the environment and how such responses are influenced by climate change conditions.

To learn more about research investments under the RC program area for SERDP and ESTCP, read the full 2021 – 2025 Research Plan here. SERDP Statements of Need and ESTCP proposal topics related to the RC program area also expand upon current and future research, which can be accessed here. Lastly, you can browse the newly funded RC projects addressing the FY21 Calls for Proposals here.