WWETAC Projects

Project Title:  Review of vulnerability assessments and Southwest vulnerability to climate change
Principal Investigator:   Deborah M. Finch, Supervisory Biologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Program (GSD), Albuquerque, NM


Collaborators:   Megan Friggens, Research Ecologist, RMRS Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Program, Albuquerque, NM; Anne Lynch, Research Entomologist, RMRS Forest and Woodland Ecosystems Program, Tucson, AZ ; Karen Bagne, Research Wildlife Biologist, RMRS Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Program; Jack Triepke, Ecologist, R3 Regional Office and University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Dr. Leslie Brandt, Climate Change Advisor, R9 RO, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science; Dr. Donald Falk, Professor, College of Natural Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson

Key Issues/Problem Addressed:              

A regional assessment for the southwestern US identified many of the high-elevation forest systems in this area as vulnerable to climate change based on projected increases in annual temperature and a high number of species of concern. However, other factors, such as changes in the amount, timing, or nature of precipitation and the interaction between fire and changes in temperature and precipitation have not been explored for this region.  This knowledge is necessary in order to identify science-based climate adaptation strategies that can be incorporated into landscape-level management planning.

Setting and Approach:         

We will create a comprehensive literature review and synthesis of published models and studies on vegetation and ecosystem vulnerability assessment approaches, as well as an assessment of ecosystem vulnerability in the Sky Islands of the Southwestern United States.

Progress to Date:

We have a completed draft of our vulnerability assessment review and will submit this for publication as a Forest Service General Technical Report. We also presented our findings with respect to this phase of the project to the Adaptation Futures: 2012 International Conference on Climate Adaptation (May, 2012).  Work on the Sky Islands vulnerability assessment is also progressing and will be completed by March 2013.


Deliverables from this project will benefit land managers in the southwestern US who are tasked with managing vegetation, habitats and ecosystems impacted by or potentially responsive to climate change, and who are responsible for integrating new science developments into their management approaches (e.g., forest plans).  Products will also benefit the public who are concerned about the effects of climate warming and global change on biological diversity, natural resources, recreational opportunities, and aesthetics.   More specifically, the information will be useful for managers on national forests who are currently tasked with meeting climate change performance scorecard objectives focused on adaptation, vulnerability assessments, and science-management integration.  

WWETAC ID:      FY11NG92