• 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.


Fire and Water: Assessing Springs Ecosystems and Adapting Management to Respond to Climate Change

Science Need(s)

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?

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 5: Changing Wildfire Regimes and Riparian Habitat Management
Under what conditions or circumstances are changes in wildfire regimes (e.g., frequency, size, and severity), influenced by climate change, land use practices, and invasive species, likely to have significant impacts on the biodiversity and ecosystem function and services of riparian ecosystems? What management practices might be most effective for addressing changing wildfire regimes in riparian systems?


Grantee: Sky Island Alliance
Principle Investigators: Louise Misztal
Cooperative Agreement:  $149,377 in non-Federal funds and $ 127,407 in Federal funds provided by Bureau of Reclamation
Project Duration: 2013-2015
Project Goal(s)

  • Reduce the vulnerability of springs to climate change and non-climate stressors.
  • Increase regional understanding of springs ecology, management status, their contribution to landscape-level resilience, fire impacts on them, and their relationship to the hydrogeologic areas in which they are located.
  • Build and enhance technical capacity to collect and understand critical baseline information on unstudied springs and to monitor them long-term.
  • Help managers adapt management of springs to climate change and promote climate change adaptation practices at the landscape scale.
  • Guide future restoration efforts to increase the resilience of springs ecosystems in the face of climate change impacts and non-climate stressors.
  • Improve future management and enhance stewardship of springs.

Brief Project Description

Sky Island Alliance will develop science and conservation-based guidance to assist natural resource managers in responding to expected climate change and other stressors on springs ecosystems in sky island regions of the Desert LCC. The project will result in publication of an Arizona Springs Restoration Handbook, which will aid managers in directing limited resources to preserve these key water resources and species that depend on them.

Project Location

Arizona portion of the Sky Islands region

Project Tasks

  1. Work collaboratively with managers and partners to identify priority areas for focus of springs inventory and assessment work.
  2. Collect critical baseline and long-term monitoring data on approximately 50 springs in areas of high priority.
  3. Develop tools, guidance and capacity to support climate-savvy management, restoration and monitoring of springs at the landscape level.
  4. Analyze spring assessment data and strengthen integration of assessment findings into management decisions.

Project Deliverables

  1. An initial spatial assessment of springs in the Sky Island region that may have been affected by recent fires and springs that may be affected by upcoming pre-fire treatments
  2. A comprehensive spatial dataset of springs in priority hydrogeologic areas
  3. Identification of areas in which to conduct random and fire-specific springs inventories that are highest priority to managers.
  4. New baseline inventory and assessment data on up to 50 new spring sites in a priority hydrogeologic area; new inventory and assessment data collected at 15 targeted springs sites to address fire-springs management questions.
  5. Climate-savvy monitoring protocols established and data collected at 5 spring sites.
  6. Demonstration of a pilot project to engage citizen scientists in monitoring.
  7. At least 30 managers are directly trained in use of the Springs Inventory Database and easily accessible training resources available for managers to review.
  8. Development of best practices and guidance on springs restoration are published and accessible to managers through the Arizona Springs Restoration Handbook.
  9. Maps depicting springs at high risk for fire damage; maps and synthesis products describing fire effects on springs; guidance on management issues at fire-effected springs and potential approaches.
  10. Development of actionable, collaborative adaptation strategies to protect and restore springs in relation to fire; Final report detailing management options and analyses.

Opportunities to learn more

Documents for downloading

Project Proposal