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Identifying bird and reptile vulnerabilities to climate change in the southwestern United States

July 6, 2016

Current and future breeding ranges of 15 bird and 16 reptile species were modeled in the Southwestern United States. Rather than taking a broad-scale, vulnerability-assessment approach, we created a species distribution model (SDM) for each focal species incorporating climatic, landscape, and plant variables. Baseline climate (1940–2009) was characterized with Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) data and future climate with global-circulation-model data under an A1B emission scenario. Climatic variables included monthly and seasonal temperature and precipitation; landscape variables included terrain ruggedness, soil type, and insolation; and plant variables included trees and shrubs commonly associated with a focal species. Not all species-distribution models contained a plant, but if they did, we included a built-in annual migration rate for more accurate plant-range projections in 2039 or 2099. We conducted a group meta-analysis to (1) determine how influential each variable class was when averaged across all species distribution models (birds or reptiles), and (2) identify the correlation among contemporary (2009) habitat fragmentation and biological attributes and future range projections (2039 or 2099). Projected changes in bird and reptile ranges varied widely among species, with one-third of the ranges predicted to expand and two-thirds predicted to contract. A group meta-analysis indicated that climatic variables were the most influential variable class when averaged across all models for both groups, followed by landscape and plant variables (birds), or plant and landscape variables (reptiles), respectively. The second part of the meta-analysis indicated that numerous contemporary habitat-fragmentation (for example, patch isolation) and biological-attribute (for example, clutch size, longevity) variables were significantly correlated with the magnitude of projected range changes for birds and reptiles. Patch isolation was a significant trans-specific driver of projected bird and reptile ranges, suggesting that strategic actions should focus on restoration and enhancement of habitat at local and regional scales to promote landscape connectivity and conservation of core areas.

Publication Year 2016
Title Identifying bird and reptile vulnerabilities to climate change in the southwestern United States
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161085
Authors James R. Hatten, J. Tomasz Giermakowski, Jennifer A. Holmes, Erika M. Nowak, Matthew J. Johnson, Kirsten E. Ironside, Charles van Riper, Michael Peters, Charles Truettner, Kenneth L. Cole
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2016-1085
Index ID ofr20161085
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center