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Warmer Temperatures From Climate Change Likely To Change Vegetative Landscape In Southwestern National Parks


In the drier Arizona upland plant communities some species will likely decline with forecasted climate change (such as foothill paloverde, ocotillo and creosote bush) while cacti may well increase in abundance and range. NPS photo by Sarah Studd.

While desert-thriving vegetation commonly is thought to love heat, too much heat and reduced precipitation can doom them. A new study into the likely impacts of climate change says higher temperatures will recast the native plants we find in places such as Saguaro National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

The study, contained in the recent issue of Global Change Biology, says such iconic Sonoran Desert plants as velvet mesquite and ocotillo will decline as temperatures grow hotter, while other cacti should flourish.

"By carefully examining long-term records of how vegetation has responded to variability in numerous climate-related parameters, such as temperature, mean rainfall and aridity, scientists have been able to find the key to predicting the future for complex ecosystems," remarked U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt. "This type of study is an essential first step in gaining insight to the world our children will be inheriting."

This research was conducted by a team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service. They took advantage of 100 years of plant monitoring results from Saguaro National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Desert Laboratory, and the Santa Rita Experimental Range near Tucson, Ariz. The analysis used in the study identified the plant species susceptible to climate change by determining past relationships between climate and vegetation across sites.

"There is evidence that climate change is happening at regional to global scales with long-term effects, but plant ecological research is generally conducted in a very small area over a short period of time," said Seth Munson, a USGS scientist and lead author of the study.  "This work integrates the results from four of the longest-running vegetation monitoring sites in the world to provide a more complete picture of how the plant composition, structure and productivity of a desert ecosystem may change in the future."

The study identifies critical points along a climate gradient that cause a reduction in plant abundance.

For example, perennial grasses such as bush muhly and curly mesquite grass decreased when annual precipitation dipped below 15 inches -- this amount of water input may indicate a threshold that limits  perennial grass performance in the Sonoran Desert. 

A main goal of this study was to inform the management decisions of the Park Service and other land-management agencies in the Sonoran Desert. For example, the research shows that increases in aridity correspond to declines in white ratany, a shrub that provides food for the endangered desert tortoise, which is intensively being monitored by NPS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Arizona Game and Fish. 

 "Understanding climate-vegetation dynamics is important to both short-term management decisions and long-term planning for projected climate change," said John Gross, an ecologist with the Park Service's Inventory and Monitoring Program. "A knowledge of vegetation dynamics is essential to conducting ecological vulnerability assessments and subsequent planning for climate adaptation in our parks," he added. 


OK folks, I think we've taken this thread about as far as possible. Thanks for participating.

Anon - "Greedy corporate money"?  Could you explain what makes money greedy? Oh, and who determines what is greedy and what is just enterprising?

Actually, Lee, the Internet has allowed the persistent scholar to learn great sources of information
quickly, and to confirm accuracy through searches via documents most readers would not know existed.
So your thought  "there is no way to assure us that any of it is accurate in any way. And therein lies the problem..." needs re-thinking.  We no longer deal with stale information like before but timely facts.
Prior to the Internet searches, much time was required in good libraries to locate accurate or respected
information.  Now, when FOX NEWS provides its typical SPIN one can locate more accurate stories through
the miracle of Google or Bing Searches.  We now understand far more subjects than ever before, and we
need to be reminded that an ethical  Scientist (i.e. one not bought with Greedy Corporate Money) knows
"We always live with the Possibility that We May Be Wrong !"  Indeed, our Public Educational Institutions
are challenged to provide the best teachers vs prior to the Internet when many Faculty repeated stale
information without appropriately keeping-up in their chosen fields of study.  Amazing, how many so-called
learned individuals have a low tolerance for being told that they May Be Wrong ! HUMAN EGO ISSUES ?

Lee - Emotion vs facts?  The BEST study was a US government sponsored and conducted. This study is not some urban myth spread via the internet (like 100000 mammels killed by plastic).  Heck even the alarmist hailed its data - until they found out the most important data had been hidden.  Which brings us to a key point.  Who is using emotion vs facts - those looking to see and interpret all the REAL data or those trying to "hide the decline". 

Oh - and I owe Rick an apology re the "warmest decade" comment. It was an "anon" that may that uninformed comment - not Rick.

The only thing certain about the entire debate is that many people on both sides are allowing emotion rather than facts to cloud their vision.  (Maybe I should have said OUR vision.)

While internet has vastly increased humankind's ability to store and share knowledge, there is no way to assure us that any of it is accurate in any way.  And therein lies the problem.  It has become such a mish-mash of good and poor information and data that it's well nigh impossible to use it as a reliable scientific tool.

I'm beginning to wonder if the internet is really a boon to us all -- or if it may be sowing seeds for some kind of disaster yet unimaginable to us at this time.

What has global warming done since 1998?[color=#0000ff]Link to this page[/color]The skeptic argument...

It hasn't warmed since 1998
For the years 1998-2005, temperature did not increase. This period coincides with society's continued pumping of more CO2 into the atmosphere. ([color=#0000ff]Bob Carter[/color])
What the science says...Select a level... Basic   [color=#005aff] Intermediate [/color]For global records, 2010 is the hottest year on record, tied with 2005.  
No, it hasn't been cooling since 1998. Even if we ignore long term trends and just look at the record-breakers, that wasn't the hottest year ever. Different reports show that, overall, 2005 was hotter than 1998. What's more, globally, the hottest 12-month period ever recorded was from June 2009 to May 2010.
Though humans love record-breakers, they don't, on their own, tell us a much about trends -- and it's trends that matter when monitoring Climate Change. Trends only appear by looking at all the data, globally, and taking into account other variables -- like the effects of the El Nino ocean current or sunspot activity -- not by cherry-picking single points.
There's also a tendency for some people just to concentrate on air temperatures when there are other, more useful, indicators that can perhaps give us a better idea how rapidly the world is warming. Oceans for instance -- due to their immense size and heat storing capability (called 'thermal mass') -- tend to give a much more 'steady' indication of the warming that is happening. Here records show that the Earth has been warming at a steady rate before and since 1998 and there's no signs of it slowing any time soon.

A Warming Earth Atmosphere means more severe Storms including tornadoes and other severe events.
Listen to N. American Severe Weather News totaling over $50,000,000,000 in Losses for 2011 alone.
Fact Not Politics: On Earth accepted water-temperature properties mean Warming Melts Ice and Cooling Preserves-Expands Ice.  Yes, there are local micro-climatic situations with increasing precipitation where mountain glaciers, for example,  may actually advance in the short term.  Best Evidence is Receding Mountain Glaciers as witnessed in Glacier NP; so, Read on and then allow Corporate American Greed to deny the Facts:

February 15, 2012[/color]

For Earth, January 2012 is the 19th warmest December on record since 1880.  January 2007 was the warmest.  January 1893 was the coolest.  At an average of 12.0°C, last month's global temperature is 0.39°C higher than the 20th Century average.  

The data and information was posted February 15, 2012 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its [color=#0000ff]National Climate Data Center[/color] (NCDC) in the USA.  

Annually, 2011 is the 11th warmest year on record.  The year 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest years.  

More details about global temperature are available in the State of the Climate reports (Global Analysis) at the NOAA-NCDC website. These reports present preliminary, global data that has been gathered from monitoring stations and leading institutions around the world. The reports include a [color=#0000ff]Global Hazards[/color]section that gives a global update on [color=#0000ff]drought & wildfires[/color], [color=#0000ff]flooding[/color], [color=#0000ff]storms[/color], [color=#0000ff]severe winter weather[/color], and [color=#0000ff]ecosystems impacts[/color]. A [color=#0000ff]Snow and Ice[/color] section reports on snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and sea ice extent in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. [color=#000000][/color]

NOTE: Global temperatures set out in the CO2Now graphic (above) are computed from NOAA estimates of global average temperature for the 20th century and adding the current 20th-century anomaly.

Earth to Rick - are you unfamiliar with the BEST study?  Are you not aware that the co-author called out her partner for hiding the fact that temperatures hadn't increased over the last decade?
But in typical fashion the "global warming" alarmist wanted to hide the date.
Heck even your link doesn't support your contention.

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