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What drought means for southwestern landscapes

March 1, 2022

Introduction Each year, more than 20,000 people raft the Grand Canyon, many of whom will experience this iconic landscape for the first and only time. Visitors to our region for their once-in-a-lifetime Grand Canyon experience might be surprised to see forests and wetlands in addition to deserts. While locals are seeing changes to the Colorado Plateau woodlands, many visitors may not be able to distinguish between our normal desert landscapes (we have cactus!) and the increasingly dry and hot conditions we have experienced in recent decades. Helping visitors see these drought impacts could help communicate that climate change is not a problem for future generations but something affecting us now. The southwestern US (“Southwest”) is one of many dry regions around the world located within about 30 degrees of the equator. As global temperatures rise, these dry zones are getting drier and are likely expanding1. Dryland expansion and aridification alters water availability, which touches our lives and ecosystem health in the Southwest. This essay focuses on drought impacts on ecosystems across the Four-Corners region and Grand Canyon, with particular attention to the forests and woodlands that contribute, in part, to Colorado River flows.

Publication Year 2022
Title What drought means for southwestern landscapes
Authors Kimberly Samuels-Crow, Kiona Ogle, Emily C. Palmquist
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Boatman's Quarterly Review
Index ID 70229978
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center