Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the Southwest Climate Science Center

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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Southwest Climate Science Center is awarding nearly a million dollars to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

Reporters: Descriptions of the funded projects are available here.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Southwest Climate Science Center is awarding nearly a million dollars to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

"These climate studies are designed to help address regional concerns associated with climate change, providing a pathway to enhancing resilience and supporting local community needs," said Secretary Jewell. "The impacts of climate change are vast and complex, so studies like these are critical to help ensure that our nation's responses are rooted in sound science."

The six funded studies will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and management actions that can be taken to help offset such change. They include:

  • Studying the link between drought and tree death following fires in the Southwest to better estimate the effect of fires on Southwestern forests in the future.
  • Understanding the joint impacts of cool-season precipitation and increasing spring temperatures on snowpack declines and runoff to help address future water management challenges. 
  • Examining the impact of increased storms and sea-level rise on connected coastal habitats to support future planning and conservation of nearshore natural resources.
  • Identifying a chronology of extreme storms, especially atmospheric rivers, over the past 30 years and their effect on the Sierra Nevada and western Great Basin ecosystems.
  • Providing customized climate data from across the Southwest region to inform decision-making by private landowners, public agencies and natural resources managers.
  • Assessing climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the Great Basin.

“These projects will address some of the most formidable climate challenges in the region, including drought, wildfire, sea-level rise and weather extremes,” said Stephen T. Jackson, Interior’s Southwest Climate Science Center director.  “Partnerships between researchers and resource managers will ensure rapid and effective application of new scientific results and insights.”

Each of the Department of the Interior's eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs, and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists from the universities that comprise the Southwest CSC, from USGS science centers and from other partners such as the states, the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, tribal groups, regional and municipal water-management agencies, and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in each region.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network, and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of Interior's U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior's strategy to address the impacts of climate changeon America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior's CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The Southwest Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Arizona, Tucson, with the University of California, Davis; University of California, Los Angeles; Desert Research Institute; Scripps Institution of Oceanography (San Diego); and University of Colorado, Boulder. The CSC conducts climate change science for Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and the Colorado River Headwaters in parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Useful links:

Southwest CSC Projects

Southwest CSC Homepage

Southwest CSC Consortium/University webpage

Full list of funded projects for all eight DOI Climate Science Centers