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.


Guess again... there may be some human driven changes to the climate, but global warming has been established to be a POLITICAL issue rather than a scientific one. There was a report released a couple weeks ago from the agency that does the official global temperature monitoring. There have been 15 years in a row wihtout any increase in global temperature. They have gone on to say that their computer models DO still feel that the global temperature will rise over the next couple of years. However they also add that they have been making that same perdiction for 10 years and have been WRONG all of those years. There is now a genuine effort by that agency to evealuate the cmputer model that they are using to determine if it is accurate. That computer model in question is the same one used to justify most global warming arguments. They also acknowledge that many of the computer models developed by other agencies are predicting slight cooling over the next few years.
At this time, we really don't know much, and all possibilites are on the table. The only thing right now that looks likely is that the theories on global warming are looking less and less probable. Global warming is not now, and has never been scientific fact, only a working theory.

Anon, there seem to be some contradictory and very shaky arguments in your post. You say that warming is not a scientific fact, but only a working theory. True.

Yet a little earlier you make a hard claim that it has somehow been "established" that it is a "political" and not scientific issue. "Established" how and by whom?

You repeatedly refer to "the agency" and "they" who are your sources for the information you purport to be quoting here. How about some documentation and specifics? Who are "they?" And which "the agency" do "they" represent?

In any discussion of science, it's necessary to use good science. Good science depends upon documentation and not vague claims that cannot be supported.

Lee, this quote seems to have threads through many of the conversations/posts on here as it does with this one. It was submitted by Roadranger.

"Regarding the environmental movement. When it began in the early '60s the movement had about it an altruistic core that was embraced pretty much across the board by the political spectrum. Today, the movement has been captured by the anti-capitalist, unhinged left that has been adrift since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although the NPS seems to have avoided open identification with the current movement, many of its employees are proud to identify themselves as part of the leftist elite and poised to ridicule those who are not in lockstep with their beliefs. This group needs to understand that there are millions of centrists and conservative environmental advocates - individual and corporate - who have supported the NPS mission in the past and will continue to do so. Such an acknowledgement would be good for the health of the NPS and help it survive the political swings from left to right and back again that are likely in our future."

There's such a volume of political BS that is deceptive (being kind) reflecting the stridency of ideology that it really is a concerning time. I am a bit encouraged by the Roadranger's way of putting it.

"In any discussion of science, it's necessary to use good science."
Oh "good science" like that from those that want to "hide the decline". LOL
But yes, anon, be more specific with your sources please. Although I suspect he is referring to the BEST study.

If Global warming is "BS" how do you explain the rapid melting of the majority of the earths glaciers?? Forget about 'studies" --just look at the pictures 100 yrs ago and compare to what is now???

University Arizona Press
The Changing Mile Revisited[/b]
An Ecological Study of Vegetation Change with Time in the Lower Mile of an Arid and Semiarid Region[/i][/b]
By Robert H. Webb; Raymond M. Turner; Janice E. Bowers; James Rodney Hastings
334 pp. / 9.00 in x 12.00 in / 2003
Cloth (978-0-8165-2306-1) [s]
Cloth ($75.00)
The Changing Mile, originally published in 1965, was a benchmark in ecological studies, demonstrating the prevalence of change in a seemingly changeless place. Photographs made throughout the Sonoran
An invaluable reference and a benchmark in ecological studies, but it also offers a fascinating portrait of this region and a unique view into our history. —Taxon The photo-comparisons speak for themselves, and they whisper the question of 'why?' . . . Revisited will be a welcome addition to the coffee tables and bookshelves of Southwestern scientists. It is well worth the wait of four decades. —Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science Desert region in the late 1800s and early 1900s were juxtaposed with photographs of the same locations taken many decades later. The nearly one hundred pairs of images revealed that climate has played a strong role in initiating many changes in the region. This new book updates the classic by adding recent photographs to the original pairs, providing another three decades of data and showing even more clearly the extent of change across the landscape. During these same three decades, abundant information about climatic variability, land use, and plant ecology has accumulated, making it possible to determine causes of change with more confidence. Using nearly two hundred additional triplicate sets of unpublished photographs, The Changing Mile Revisited utilizes repeat photographs selected from almost three hundred stations located in southern Arizona, in the Pinacate region of Mexico, and along the coast of the Gulf of California. Coarse photogrammetric analysis of this enlarged photographic set shows the varied response of the region's major plant species to the forces of change. The images show vegetation across the entire region at sites ranging in elevation from sea level to a mile above sea level. Some sites are truly arid, while others are located above the desert in grassland and woodland. Common names are used for most plants and animals (with Latin equivalents in endnotes) to make the book more accessible to non-technical readers. The original Changing Mile was based upon a unique set of data that allowed the authors to evaluate the extent and magnitude of vegetation change in a large geographic region. By extending the original landmark study, The Changing Mile Revisited will remain an indispensable reference for all concerned with the fragile desert environment.

EC -- with respect, I don't understand the second sentence of your post. Will you explain it for my poor old thinker?

Then I'll know whether I should purr or growl.

To the climate change deniers:


I have a direct view of a glacier through my livingroom window. C'mon up here to Alaska and watch the ice hasten in it's receeding.

It isn't 'just political' when you see it unfold in front of you.

It was sarcasm and referring to comments from the East Anglia e-mails. I know you would like to "hide those emails" but they are out there and real.
To Rick - you need to get outside your living room.
BTW Rick - the real issue is not whether climate changes, few would disagree with that. The issue is man's influence on that change. And on that there is much debate with the true science (i.e not that with manipulated, manufactured or hiden data) falling on the side of minimal if any influence relative to natural causes.

Here. repeat after me: The Sun is a Variable Star. Climate change has been happening since the earth began. Take a look at the geologic record and try to claim otherwise. To declare that climate change is human caused is just another excuse for researchers to spend government funds and get their names in print.


I'll get out today just to enjoy our new snowfall, but my sloth and dormancy has nothing to do with this question. When todays clouds clear, the glaciers will still be receding.

I do agree with you on the fact that much of the manipulated and manufactured and hidden data is on the part of the petroleum industry. A simple indication is to take a list of the elected officials most vociferously denying and minimizing human contributions and see how many are propped in place by [i.e., bought and paid for by] those same petroleum industries.

Thanks EC. Gotcha.

Also, though, the idea that the few East Anglia emails completely debunked the science of climate change has been pretty well laid to rest except among those who still choose to try to use them as justification of anti-environmental propaganda.

See this reference: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/climate-change/4338343

Or this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/20/climate-sceptics-hackers-leaked-emails

Anyone on either side of the debate can easily find plenty of "evidence" to support whatever notion they have. As for me, I'll go with the fact that a profound majority of responsible scientists in the world have come down on the side of believing that warming is a clear and present danger. You won't change my mind because I think I'm right.

And I know you won't change your mind, either.

I just hope that both of us will continue to read and evaluate the veracity of information out there -- while also evaluating the sources. I'll prefer not to obtain my info from the likes of Rupert Murdoch or the Koch Brothers, though.

vISIT: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html

Google Trends in Earth's Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, a greenhouse gas among others produced by
Earth's estimated Population of 7,000,000,000 Humans many of which are burning Fossil Fuels.
To those who Think Earth's Atmosphere without Humans is essentially the same as an Earth
with 7,000,000,000 Humans, these CO2 Data during the past 54 years (since 1958) are SUGGESTING
that the Null Hypothesis of No Difference is False. Therefore, Yes, Humans can adversely affect the
Chemistry of Earth's Atmosphere. And Earth's Ice has been receding/melting because of ACTUAL Warming,
Not GOP Anti-Science Wealthy Corporate Fossil Fuel Politics.

Monthly mean atmospheric carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii[/b]
The carbon dioxide data (red curve), measured as the mole fraction in dry air, on Mauna Loa constitute the longest record of direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. They were started by C. David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in March of 1958 at a facility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [Keeling, 1976]. NOAA started its own CO2 measurements in May of 1974, and they have run in parallel with those made by Scripps since then [Thoning, 1989]. The black curve represents the seasonally corrected data.
Data are reported as a dry mole fraction defined as the number of molecules of carbon dioxide divided by the number of molecules of dry air multiplied by one million (ppm).

Rick - you claim the petroleum industry is manipulating, manufacturing or hiding data. Please show evidence of that. You have nothing like the clear evidence of the East Anglea emails that showed a deliberate effort to alter and hide data and surpress contrary opinions. The fact that they had to do that is evidence enough of the falacy of their arguments. If the real data were on their side, they would not have to do this.

"these CO2 Data during the past 54 years (since 1958) are SUGGESTING

that the Null Hypothesis of No Difference is False."

And the evidence has shown that CO2 gains have trailed - not led changing temperature patterns. Please learn the difference between correlation and causation. In addition, despite rising CO2 in the last decade, temperatures have have not risen proving the causitive hypothesis FALSE.

More Pseudo-Science Interpretation Nonsense: ?
"...despite rising CO2 in the last decade, temperatures have have not risen proving the causitive hypothesis FALSE'"
Earth to ecbuck: We just experienced the warmest decade and also now for last month, January, 2012:
Visit: http://co2now.org/Know-the-Changing-Climate/Temperature/

Nah. You go play that game and call yourself the winner.

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.

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

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 National Climate Data Center (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 Global Hazardssection that gives a global update on drought & wildfires, flooding, storms, severe winter weather, and ecosystems impacts. A Snow and Ice section reports on snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and sea ice extent in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

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.

What has global warming done since 1998?Link to this pageThe 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. (Bob Carter)
What the science says...Select a level... Basic Intermediate 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.

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.

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.

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 ?

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

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