• Red Rocks with water in front of them in the desert.
  • Clouds behind Joshua Tree and bushes.
  • Desert flowers blooming in bushes in front of mountains in the desert.
  • Setting sun reflecting of clouds of orange and blue behind a joshua tree.
  • Hoover Dam intake towers with water behind the dam showing that it is not full.


Data Provision and Projected Impact of Climate Change on Fish Biodiversity within the Desert LCC

Science Need

Projecting natural system responses to changes in climate and hydrology, Projecting changes in the distribution and populations of fish and wildlife that are dependent on large rivers and permanent streams, Projecting changes in distribution of invasive aquatic species, Projecting changes to endangered species habitat distribution that may affect water releases and habitat improvement projects, and Assessing how the projected changes and associated water resources policy changes may impact the management of natural or cultural resources.

Grantee: University of Texas, Austin
Principle Investigators: Dr. Dean A. Hendrickson and Dr. Sahorta Sarkar
Cooperative Agreement:  $93,195 in non-Federal funds and $91,937 in Federal funds provided by Bureau of Reclamation
Project Duration: 2011-2013

Project Goal

We will produce data and decision support tools for the conservation, restoration, and management of U.S. priority freshwater fishes in drainages shared by the U.S. and Mexico by compiling and normalizing biodiversity data for all fishes occurring in internationally shared drainages of the DLCC, exclusive of the Colorado and Gila drainages. We will then focus on the Río Grande drainage where we will model current distributions of selected special interest fishes and project the models into the future under three different climate change scenarios. The results will demonstrate how changing climates will impose directional pressures that will likely tend to shift species distributions.

Brief Project Description

Freshwater fishes are globally among the most imperiled major biodiversity groups and they are especially endangered in the North American deserts of the vast binational Desert LCC. Sixty seven native fish species of conservation concern are in the study area, which includes all of the DLCC in both the US and Mexico. Essentially all species in our study area are understudied and management of them has been greatly impeded by the intrinsic difficulties of working internationally and by relative lack of, or inaccessibility to, basic knowledge about their distributions and conservation status. We propose to mine data from all online and known US-based institutions holding specimen-based occurrence records fromour study area. We will normalize and generally improve data quality to provide a comprehensive, high quality resource that brings together in one GIS-accessible database all of the currently very scattered and relatively un-normalized museum-based records. We will focus our efforts on data for the Río Grande basin, which will receive more rigorous and thorough normalization, and manual georeferencing with precision estimates, than will data for the remainder of the study area. In the Río Grande, we will also do basic quality control on taxonomy and georeferencing following published protocols and use the data to produce Species Distribution Models (SDMs) for selected priority, special interest native and invasive fishes. SDMs will be constructed for present conditions and three projected climate change scenarios to allow us to assess current and projected future status throughout each species’ range, thus filling vast information gaps throughout data-poor areas in Mexico that might prove vital as source or sink habitats. Projected future distributions will identify landscape-level areas of conservation and restoration priority that may not presently be of high priority, but that may become so in the future. The varying projections under varied climate change scenarios will allow for quantitative assessment of uncertainties. Both the raw occurrence data and current and future SDMs will be valuable tools for diverse future work on regional aquatic biodiversity sustainability in the face of climate change.

Project Location

Internationally shared drainages of the Desert LCC, exclusive of the Colorado and Gila drainages, with increased focus on the Río Grande drainage

Project Tasks

  • Compile all available data, including data from Fishes of Texas Project (FoTX), Global Biodiversity Information Facility, Fishnet2, Museum of Southwestern Biology at University of New Mexico, SONFISHES, University of Michigan, etc.
  • Isolate and retain all verbatim data and make it available together with normalized versions
  • Normalize all acquired data into the format of the FoTP
  • Isolate Rio Grande records for further processing, including georeferencing, normalization of locality descriptions, assigning records to higher geography and geopolitical categories, synonymizing recognizable taxa to currently accepted names, and resolving geographic outliers
  • Create Species Distribution Models (SDMs) for priority species in the Rio Grande
  • Project selected fish SDMs using climate change models based on IPCC fourth assessment emission scenarios A2 (extreme), A1B (intermediate), and B2 (conservative) for 2020s, 2050s, and 2090s
  • Interpret results, produce manuscripts and present final products

Project Deliverables

  • Biodiversity data in Microsoft Excel (or other requested format) and on publically accessible Fishes of Texas (FoTX) website
  • Environmental data to build species distribution models via University of Texas server
  • Research protocols and analysis methods via personal request to the investigators
  • Raster data format for future environmental variables for the extent of the focal species’ ranges modeled
  • Raster and image data format for current and future projections
  • 2 peer-reviewed papers
  • Presentations to partners

Documents for Downloading

  1. Project Proposal
  2. Summary Report