Southwest Biological Science Center

Climate Change and Drought

Filter Total Items: 24
Date published: December 15, 2016
Status: Active

New Approaches for Restoring Colorado Plateau Grasslands

Historic over-grazing of arid grasslands in the Intermountain West has led to widespread soil erosion, loss of plant diversity, and invasion by exotic species.  Degraded grassland conditions can be very persistent, even after livestock use has ceased. For example, in national parks on the Colorado Plateau, livestock have been excluded for decades, but soil and native plants have not recovered...

Contacts: Mike Duniway, Ph.D., Rebecca Mann, Terry Fisk, Liz Ballenger
Date published: December 14, 2016

Plant Responses to Drought and Climate Change in the Southwestern United States

Land managers face tremendous challenges in the future as drought and climate change alter the abundance, distribution, and interactions of plant species. These challenges will be especially daunting in the southwestern US, which is already experiencing elevated temperatures and prolonged droughts, resulting in reduced soil moisture in an already water-limited environment.  These changes will...

Contacts: Seth Munson
Date published: December 14, 2016

Aeolian Dust in Dryland Landscapes of the Western United States

Dust emission caused by wind erosion has received considerable attention because of its far-reaching effects on ecosystems, including the loss of nutrients and water-holding capacity from source areas, changes to climate and global energy balance in areas where dust is entrained in the atmosphere, fertilization of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, in addition to decreases in snow albedo,...

Contacts: Seth Munson
Date published: December 13, 2016

Measuring Water Requirements Of Riparian Regions in the Southwestern U.S. Compared with Drylands in Australia

Floodplain red gum forests are sites of high biodiversity in arid regions of south Australia. They depend on periodic floods from rivers, but dams and diversions have reduced flood frequencies, leading to deterioration of the trees. We determined the water requirements of red gum trees so environmental flows can be used to restore and maintain the forests. We used measurements of transpiration...

Contacts: Pamela Nagler
Date published: December 13, 2016

Using Imagery to Monitor Riparian and Upland Vegetation Along the San Pedro River, Arizona

The Upper San Pedro River is one of the few remaining undammed rivers that maintain a vibrant riparian ecosystem in the southwest. However, its riparian forest is threatened by diminishing groundwater and surface water inputs, due to either changes in watershed characteristics such as changes in riparian and upland vegetation, or human activities such as regional groundwater pumping. We used...

Contacts: Pamela Nagler
Date published: December 9, 2016

How Increasing Temperatures Affect Tropical Forests

Tropical forests take in and store more carbon than any other biome in the world, but increasing temperatures may pose a threat to this invaluable service. This research aims to explore how temperature affects key tropical forest functions, such as plant photosynthesis and soil respiration. To do this, the Tropical Responses to Altered Climate Experiment (TRACE) project will use infrared...

Date published: December 9, 2016
Status: Active

RAMPS: Restoration Assessment & Monitoring Program for the Southwest

The Restoration Assessment and Monitoring Program for the Southwest (RAMPS) seeks to assist U.S. Department of the Interior and other land management agencies and private partners in developing successful restoration strategies for dryland ecosystems of the southwestern United States. Invasive species, drought, habitat loss, fire, urban expansion, and other disturbances have degraded...

Date published: December 8, 2016
Status: Active

Turtle Ecology

Turtles are among the most recognizable and iconic of animals. Any animal with a shell and a backbone is a turtle whether they are called turtles, tortoises, or terrapins. In fact, terrapin is an Algonquian Native American name for turtle. Worldwide there are 356 turtle species on all continents except for Antarctica. The United States has more species than any other country with about 62 ...

Date published: December 7, 2016
Status: Active

Chronic Drought Impacts on Colorado Plateau ecosystems (Rain-Out Experiment)

In drylands, chronic reductions in water availability (press-drought) through reduced precipitation and increased temperatures may have profound ecosystem effects, depending on the sensitivities of the dominant plants and plant functional types. In this study, we are examining the impacts of moderate, but long-term chronic drought using a network of 40 drought shelters on the Colorado Plateau...

Contacts: Mike Duniway, Ph.D., Jayne Belnap, David Hoover
Date published: December 6, 2016
Status: Active

Big Sagebrush Ecosystem Response to Climate & Disturbance

Big sagebrush ecosystems are a major component of landscapes in the western U.S. and provide vital habitat to a wide array of wildlife species.  However, big sagebrush ecosystems have been dramatically impacted by disturbances in the past several decades. This collaborative research between USGS and the University of Wyoming focuses on understanding how climatic and soil conditions influence...

Contacts: John Bradford
Date published: December 5, 2016

Desert Tortoise Ecology in Joshua Tree National Park

Agassiz’s desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) approach the southern edge of their mostly Mojave Desert range near Joshua Tree National Park. Modern desert tortoise research started in the Park in 1978 when the first tortoise population census was conducted on a one square mile area in the Pinto Basin known as the “Barrow Plot.” U.S. Geological Survey research began at the plot in 1997 and...

Date published: November 18, 2016

Colorado Plateau Extreme Drought in Grassland Experiment (EDGE)

In drylands, short-term extreme droughts can have profound ecosystem effects, depending on the timing (seasonality) of drought and the sensitivities of the dominant plants and plant functional types. Past work suggests that cool season drought may disproportionately impact regionally important grass and shrub species. In this study, we are examining the impacts of extreme seasonal drought on...

Contacts: Mike Duniway, Ph.D., Jayne Belnap, David Hoover