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Scientists Quantify Climate Change Vulnerability of Wildlife in Southwestern United States Riparian Habitats

Photo of Flare up during the 2011 Los Conchas Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest. USDA Forest ServiceFlare up during the 2011 Los Conchas Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forest Service scientists have developed a coupled approach to estimate the interactive impacts of climate change and fire on species that reside within riparian habitats in the Southwest.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Friggens, Megan M.  
Research Location : Southwest Region (R3); New Mexico; Carson National Forest; Cibola National Forest; Gila National Forest; Santa Fe National Forest
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 814

Summary

Many scientists predict the interaction of fire, climate change, and invasive species will have extreme effects for ecosystems in the interior western United States. Wildlife species that rely on riparian habitats are likely to be particularly hard hit. Climate will drive changes to river flows through modified precipitation regimes and higher temperatures. These changes will, in turn, increase the risk of severe fires within riparian woodland habitats, affecting wildlife communities.

The potential for severe changes due to climate and fire threatens Forest Service researchers’ capacity to develop successful strategies to manage for the species, habitats, and natural resources of U.S. western water ecosystems.

Forest Service scientistsdeveloped a coupled approach that combines species distribution models, predictions for future fire regime, and climate change vulnerability assessments to estimate the interactive impacts of climate change and fire on species that reside within riparian habitats in the Southwest.

Resource managers need tools that identify the likely future of riparian habitats under various climate and fire scenarios, not only to focus limited resources on the most critical needs for wildlife species, but to find opportunities for promoting natural regeneration of riparian woodland and wetland habitats. Building upon a risk matrix method developed by the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and vulnerability assessment tools developed by the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station, this project quantifies the effects of fire and climate change on native and nonnative species residing within New Mexico riparian, wetland and associated upland habitats.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Lisa Holsinger, Human Dimensions Program/Fire, Fuels and Smoke Program
  • Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • Rachel Loehman, US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center
  • Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative