• 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.


Assessing Large-Scale Effects of Wildfire and Climate Change on Avian Communities and Habitats in the Sky Islands, Arizona

Science Need(s)

Critical Management Question 2: Monitoring Species/Processes and Related Threats/Stressors
What species and ecological processes are sensitive to climate change and/or other large scale stressors (e.g., water management, invasive species, altered fire regime, wind erosion) and can be effectively monitored to indicate the overall effects of these stressors on ecosystems, habitats, and species, thus helping managers detect, understand, and respond to these changes? What are the best monitoring designs and protocols to detect changes to these processes and species at temporal and geographic scales suitable for providing adequate and reliable metrics?

Critical Management Question 4: Physiological Stress of Climate Change
What species will be impacted by physiological stress due to climate change (e.g., temperature, water) and to what extent? What adaptation strategies might be applied to lessen the impact?

Critical Management Question 1: Water Management and Climate Change
How are climate change, water management, and their interaction affecting the physical processes that support springs, aquatic and riparian habitats, species, and human cultures? What are viable management options to mitigate these effects and support ecosystem functions? How can climate change, hydrological, ecological, and/or biological models be used to better understand the potential future effects of climate change, inform adaptive management and development of beneficial management practices, and create related decision support tools?


Grantee: Rocky Mountain Research Station
Principle Investigators: Jamie S. Sanderlin, William M. Block, Joseph L. Ganey, Jose M. Iniguez, Samuel Cushman
Cooperative Agreement:  $170,333 in matching funds and $99,949 in Federal funds provided by US Fish and Wildlife Service
Project Duration: 2013-2015
Project Goal(s)

  1. Assessing impacts of wildfire and climate change on avian communities
    1. Determine if bird distribution patterns and species diversity changed over time and are changes attributable to fire and climate change.
    2. Determine impacts of fire severity and time since fire and climate change on vegetation and avian communities.
    3. Identify management strategies effective with climate change and fire management to maintain species diversity and mitigate large-scale disturbance on sensitive bird species.
  2. Establishing a long-term avian monitoring program using citizen scientists
    1. Evaluate how citizen science and outreach activities contribute to research objectives of assessing avian community changes with wildfire and climate change.
    2. Develop long-term avian monitoring program using citizen science.
  3. Developing cost-efficient protocols for monitoring avian communities
    1. Develop an optimal study design for avian communities in the Sky Islands.

Brief Project Description

Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists initiated a study in the 1990s on avian distribution and habitat associations within the Sky Islands. By re-measuring vegetation and bird populations following wildfires and applying climate change models, they will assess the singular and synergistic effects of climate change and wildfire and provide strategies for managing resilient forests and conserving the avian community structure. They will also continue and expand citizen science efforts to develop a long term avian monitoring plan, as well as simulation studies to provide optimal monitoring designs for avian species to detect changes from large-scale stressors.

Project Location

Oak woodlands, pine-oak (Pinus spp. – Quercus spp.) forests, pine forests, and mixed-conifer forests within the Santa Rita, Santa Catalina, Huachuca, Chiricahua, and Pinaleño Mountains (1470-3000 m elevation) of the Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona

Project Tasks

  1. Present webinar for managers with information to guide management decisions
  2. Conduct predictive climate change models to evaluate effects on birds
  3. Involve citizens in avian surveys and a long-term avian monitoring plan
  4. Increase public awareness of fire through outreach activities
  5. Develop website to increase communication with citizen scientists and managers
  6. Conduct simulation study
  7. Complete publications and presentations

Project Deliverables

  1. Journal publications and presentations, including a webinar
  2. Computer models/code
  3. Predictive climate change models to evaluate effects on birds
  4. Archived dataset
  5. Community outreach activities
  6. Long-term monitoring plan
  7. Project website

Opportunities to learn more

Documents for downloading

Project Proposal