The Effects of Climate Change in Grasslands, Shrublands, and Deserts
Forest Service scientists recently published a comprehensive report summarizing climate change research and its potential effects on grassland, shrub, and desert ecosystems. The report, Climate Change in Grasslands, Shrublands, and Deserts of the Interior American West: A Review and Needs Assessment, highlights current knowledge and suggests future research that will be essential to mitigate the prospective detrimental effects of climate change. It addresses animal, plant, and invasive species models and responses; vulnerabilities and genetic adaption; animal species and habitats; and decision-support tools for restoration and land management.
Findings from the report reveal that, by the turn of the century, climate in the Western United States may be incompatible with current vegetation types, resulting in shifting patterns of terrestrial ecosystems. In arid and semi-arid shrublands and deserts, invasive grass species with higher flammability like cheatgrass will spread and increase fire frequency and extent.
Increased temperatures may affect insect development time and result in significant increases in generations per year/per habitat and expose new environments to colonization. Increased water scarcity—such as disruption of water flow regimes and river and wetland drying—are likely to become overriding conservation issues.
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