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The USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC), as part of the work of the Interagency Land Management Adaptation Group (ILMAG), initiated a project in 2013 to develop plans for a searchable, public registry on climate change vulnerability assessments. Member agencies from the USGCRP Adaptation Science Work Group, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), and several NGO’s also contributed. Vulnerability assessments are important for identifying resources that are most likely to be affected by climate change and providing insights on why certain resources are vulnerable. Consequently, they provide valuable information for informing climate change adaptation planning. CRAVe allows...
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Species that inhabit the arid Southwest are adapted to living in hot, dry environments. Yet the increasing frequency and severity of drought in the region may create conditions that even these hardy species can’t survive. This project examined the impacts of drought in the southwestern U.S. on four of the region’s iconic species: desert bighorn sheep, American pronghorn, scaled quail, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Grasping the impacts of drought on fish and wildlife is critical for management planning in the Southwest, as climate models project warmer, drier conditions for the region in the future. Species are known to respond to environmental changes such as drought in different ways. Often, before changes...
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The antelope-like pronghorn is the fastest land animal in North America and has the longest land migration in the continental U.S—in fact, the species has been dubbed “the true marathoners of the American West”. While pronghorns are numerous in parts of their range, such as Wyoming and northern Colorado, they are endangered in others, such as the Sonoran Desert. In the arid Southwest, pronghorn populations have been declining since the 1980s—and it’s thought that drought is partially to blame. Average temperatures in the Southwest have increased 1.6°C since 1901, and the area affected by drought from 2001-2010 was the second largest observed since 1901. Drought conditions have reduced the availability of vegetation,...
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Native to the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico, the desert bighorn sheep is known for its ability to adapt to harsh, arid environments. However, this does not mean the species is immune to the effects of drought. In fact, the fragmented and isolated distribution of the desert mountain ranges that they inhabit means that they can’t follow distant rain storms without traversing broad valleys at significant risk to mortality. This study examined the effects of a 2002 drought on desert bighorn sheep in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona. Specifically, researchers explored how the drought may have affected habitat selection, behavior, and diet of the sheep. For example, when...
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Drought poses a major threat to New Mexico’s state fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This southernmost subspecies of cutthroat trout, found only in New Mexico and Colorado, has already been restricted to an estimated 12% of its former range. Now climate change, in the form of lower winter snowpack and reduced precipitation, challenges its long-term persistence. This trout tends to occupy small and fragmented streams, which are at higher risk of drying up during drought events. Yet, the full extent of drought impacts to Rio Grande cutthroat trout is unknown. To address this knowledge gap, researchers examined the effects of drought - in particular stream intermittency - on the growth and survival of Rio Grande...
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The scaled quail is an important species that indicates the overall health of the habitats they occupy in the arid Southwest. Some populations are declining, which may be linked to the long-term trend in warmer, drier conditions and reduced monsoonal rainfall across their range. It’s believed that temperature and humidity levels have been too high, reducing the survival of eggs and chicks. Climate models project decreasing rainfall and warming temperatures to continue for the region, so understanding this linkage is becoming increasingly critical. To address this need, researchers sought to measure the success of scaled quail nests at locations across their range, to determine if nest success is related to temperature,...


    map background search result map search result map The Impacts of Drought on Fish and Wildlife in the Southwestern U.S. The Effects of Drought on Desert Bighorn Sheep The Effects of Drought on Southwestern Pronghorns The Effects of Drought on Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout: The Role of Stream Intermittency The Effects of Climate on Scaled Quail Reproduction and Survival Development of the Climate Registry for the Assessment of Vulnerability (CRAVe): A Searchable, Public Online Tool for Understanding Species and Habitat Vulnerability The Effects of Drought on Desert Bighorn Sheep The Effects of Drought on Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout: The Role of Stream Intermittency The Effects of Climate on Scaled Quail Reproduction and Survival The Impacts of Drought on Fish and Wildlife in the Southwestern U.S. The Effects of Drought on Southwestern Pronghorns Development of the Climate Registry for the Assessment of Vulnerability (CRAVe): A Searchable, Public Online Tool for Understanding Species and Habitat Vulnerability