• 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.

2012 SCIENCE PROJECTS

Summary Project Lead Partners
Supporting Watershed Management Planning for People and the Environment in the DLCC Region: A Demonstration in the Upper Gila River Watershed

Goal: Develop and demonstrate a methodology for developing baseline assessments and forward-looking scenarios needed to support watershed planning and management that incorporates both human and environmental water needs in the Upper Gila River Watershed. The project will develop 1) a methodology to assess baseline watershed conditions for watersheds within the Desert LCC region, using the Gila Watershed as a demonstration watershed; 2) publication of Extension and peer reviewed articles; 3) a methodology for creating planning scenarios that incorporate expected climate and land use/land cover change impacts on the vulnerability and resiliency of environmental resources and human water uses (to include development of planning scenarios for the Gila Watershed); and 4) a guidebook describing how to develop assessments of baseline watershed conditions and planning scenarios from start to finish.

Dr. Sharon B. Megdal
Water Resources Research Center, University of Arizona

William Brandau
Arizona Cooperative Extension

Gila Watershed Partnership
Graham County, AZ
Greenlee County, AZ
City of Safford, AZ
Town of Pima, AZ
Greenlee County
Cattlegrowers
Heart and Horn Ecological Services, LLC
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Environmental Defense Fund

The Combined impacts of climate change on bio-control on a dominant riparian invasive tree/shrub (Tamarisk spp.)
Determine how the tamarisk leaf beetle combined with climate change will affect tamarisk populations throughout the DLCC region. The project will determine 1) if climate warming coupled with the tamarisk leaf beetle will reduce the negative impact of tamarisk on water resource management in western North America, 2) assess whether some tamarisk populations are more susceptible to the combination of climate change and tamarisk leaf beetle and 3) evaluate how genetic change in the tamarisk beetle species will enable beetle colonies to expand in the lower Colorado River Basin and extend the period of active feeding, thereby changing riparian vegetation in this region.

Kevin Hultine
Desert Botanical Garden, Inc.

Colorado Department of Agriculture
University of California, Santa Barbara
Northern Arizona University
The Walton Family Foundation
USDA, Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory

Defining Ecosystem Water Needs of the Upper Gila River and Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change
Define ecosystem water needs and assess the impacts of climate change and proposed new water diversions, through the Arizona Water Settlements Act (New Mexico Unit), on hydrologic processes, riparian vegetation and aquatic habitat and associated wildlife species in the Upper Gila River in New Mexico. The project will synthesize existing scientific literature and ecological analyses to evaluate the probable ecosystem impact of diversions under changing climate conditions.

 

David Gori
The Nature Conservancy

University of New Mexico
Northern Arizona University
University of Kansas
State of New Mexico Department of Fish and Game
USFWS, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office
New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission

A Landscape Approach for Fisheries Database Compilation and Predictive Modeling

Produce a defensible data set and decision tool for the conservation of fish and other aquatic and riparian species in Arizona by synthesizing and refining fisheries data and models at the watershed scale, including information on species distribution and abundance and landscape-scale species distribution models. Information collected will be used as part of Arizona Game and Fish Department’s and the Western Governors’ Association Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) and set the foundation on which managers can assess the impacts of water use, biological invasions, and climate change on biological resources in Arizona. Provide expertise and personnel to New Mexico to create similar models for shared Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Bill Stewart
Arizona Game and Fish Department

New Mexico Game and Fish Department
Western Governors’ Association
Desert Fish Habitat Partnership
University of Washington
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality

Aligning ecological restoration and community interests through active experimentation

Develop new information about local needs and ecological conditions in the agricultural community of Canada Alamosa and test the effectiveness of traditional resource management practices combined with restoration techniques supporting sustainable economic development. Analyze existing example projects and the potential for demonstrating efficiency of restoring a riparian buffer within the existing Alamosa Creek channel and along irrigation ditches, planting field distractor crops and wind breaks and supporting habitat for pest predators. Develop a model that can be used for scientific and agency support for local land managers to maximize ecosystem services.

Connie Maxwell
Alamosa Land Institute, Alamosa Creek and the Canada Alamosa Community

USFWS, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office
NRCS
Local land owners
Monticello Canyon Association
Monticello Ditch Association
New Mexico Community Foundation

Effects of Bio-control and restoration on wildlife in southwestern riparian habitats

Goal: Determine if the introduction of the bio-control agent (tamarisk leaf beetle, Diorhabda spp.) as an insect consumer and defoliator of salt cedar, in conjunction with riparian restoration, influences wildlife populations and communities via alterations to food resources and/or habitat. Relate biocontrol changes in habitat structure and composition to wildlife communities (avifauna and herpetofauna) along the Virgin River. Relate changes in food resources to wildlife diet composition along the river.

Heather L. Bateman
Arizona State University

Northern Arizona University
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
University of California, Santa Barbara
Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology
USFWS, Arizona Ecological Services Office
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office
U.S. Geological Survey
Arizona Game and Fish Department
The Walton Family Foundation

Assessing Evapotranspiration Rate Changes for Proposed Restoration of the Forested Uplands of the DLCC
Assess the hydrological responses of forest thinning through detailed measurements and modeling of evapotranspiration. The primary research question is if new forest restoration treatments provide significant and lasting changes in evapotranspiration which benefit other components of the hydrologic budget. The validated modeling approaches for estimating ET that will be produced by the project will be useful to land managers for predicting impacts of vegetation manipulations on surface and groundwater availability.

Abe Springer
Northern Arizona University

Four Forest Restoration Initiative
Ecological Restoration Initiative
Salt River Project

Modeling Woody Plant Regeneration and Debris Accumulation Under Future Streamflow and Wildfire Scenarios in the DLCC
Evaluate the effects of climate change and wildfire scenarios on the density of woody vegetation, snags and wood debris in the Middle Rio Grande basin and develop a tool that may be applied to other regions to project changes in tree density, snag density and amounts of woody debris over time. The information from this project will allow managers to make decisions regarding fuel reduction activities and water delivery with an awareness of how these decisions will affect the vulnerability of riparian obligate wildlife species.

Max Smith and Deborah Finch
USFS, Rocky Mountain Research Station

 
The Impact of Ecosystem Water Balance on Desert Vegetation: Quantification of historical patterns and projection under climate change

Explore climate change impacts on vegetation across the Desert and Southern Rockies LCCs using historical monitoring data collected from 23 sites across the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, Mojave and Colorado Plateau deserts for 30-50 years. This data will then be combined with ecosystem water balance model simulations to establish features of water availability critical for plant species response. Results will allow managers to identify species and communities at risk under future climate scenarios based on predicted changes in plant water availability.

John Bradford USGS, Southwest Biological Science Center

 

Vulnerability of Riparian Obligate Species in the Rio Grande to the Interactive Effects of Fire, Hydrological Variation and Climate Change
Evaluate the interactive effects of fire and climate change on the presence and long-term persistence of native and non-native species within Rio Grande riparian and wetland habitats. Decision support tools and maps will be produced that will help resource managers identify conditions and locations where biodiversity will be most affected by future changes and identify needs with respect to species conservation and invasive species management.

Megan Friggins and Deborah Finch USFS, Rocky Mountain Research Station

 

Developing tools for detecting climate change impacts on birds and their habitats in the desert southwest
Expand the development of a web tool that can be used by managers and in workshops for identifying climate change impacts, identifying adaptation opportunities, and improving capacity for making conservation decisions for wildlife populations and habitats using birds as indicators.

 

Sonoran Joint Venture
Pacific Coast Joint Venture
Point Reyes Bird Observatory

Mapping springs and seeps and aquatic habitat in the Desert LCC
Expand inventory and assessment of springs, seeps, and aquatic resources (e.g., USGS, Spring Stewardship Alliance, Sky Island Alliance) to map springs and seeps throughout southern New Mexico, western Texas, and northern Mexico using a consistent protocol.

 

Pinetop Fisheries Office/New Mexico State Ecological Services Office Desert Fishes Council

Corridors, climate change, and conservation planning in the Desert Southwest
Goal: Use quantitative spatial analysis and principles from landscape ecology to determine where habitat corridors could most effectively connect large landscapes to potentially ameliorate

Jason Kreitler USGS Western Geographic Science Center