• 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.

2013 SCIENCE PROJECTS

Summary Project Lead Partners

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

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.

Louise Misztal, Sky Alliance

Pima County
USFS, Coronado
FWS, Arizona Ecological Services
NPS, Sonoran Desert Network
BLM, Safford
UA, Water Resources Research Center
Museum of Northern Arizona, Springs Stewardship Institute

A Study of Climate Change Impacts on Water Quality and Internal Nutrient Recycling in Lake Mead, Arizona-Nevada

Southern Nevada Water Authority will add new modeling and analytical capabilities to tools developed as part of a previous WaterSMART Climate Analysis Tools Grant that assessed impacts of climate change on water quality and sediment transport in Lake Mead. Project results are intended to increase an understanding of how water quality characteristics and nutrient levels in Lake Mead may be affected by climate change
Southern Nevada Water Authority  

Landscape connectivity of isolated waters for wildlife in the Sonoran desert

Texas Tech University will conduct quantitative and predictive analysis of the connectivity of isolated desert "wetlands" that include tinajas — the name for eroded pools in bedrock — for 20 wildlife species over the Sonoran desert ecoregion. Potential loss of wetlands due to climate change will also be studied to identify high value areas that can be prioritized for future restoration efforts and targeted for better management practices.

Dr. Kerry L. Griffis-Kyle,

Texas Tech University

FWS, Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts
FWS, Kofa NWR
FWS, Cabeza Prieta NWR
FWS, Buenos Aires NWR
BLM, Sonoran Desert NM

NPS, Natural Resources Stewardship and Science, Water Resources Division

Developing a geodatabase and geocollaborative tools to support springs and springs-dependent species management in the Desert LCC

Museum of Northern Arizona, Inc. will leverage tools previously developed by the Springs Stewardship Initiative to help resource managers in the southwestern U.S. collect, analyze, report upon, monitor and archive the complex and interrelated information associated with springs and spring-dependent species in the region. The information will be compiled and made readily available online. The Museum will further develop interactive online maps and climate change risk assessment tools of springs-dependent sensitive plant and animal species.

Dr. Lawrence Stevens, Museum of Northern Arizona

Arizona Game & Fish Department
NPS, Grand Canyon
NPS, Southern Colorado Plateau Inventory & Monitoring Network
NF, Kaibab
Hualapai Tribe
Hualapai Department of Natural Resources
Grand Canyon River Guides
Sky Island Alliance
USFS, Spring Mountains NRA
NatureServe
BLM, Safford
Private, S. Scannell
ESRI Conservation Program
NAU

Prescott College

Managing water and riparian habitats on the Bill Williams River with scientific benefit for other desert river systems

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey to develop new operational rules for water managers to guide reservoir releases to promote the establishment of native cottonwood and willow stands downstream of reservoirs while balancing other water management needs. Once completed, project benefits will be transferable to other managed river systems in the arid southwest.
John Hickey, US Army Corps of Engineers

FWS
USGS

Bill Williams River Corridor Steering Committee (Az Game & Fish Department, Az State Parks, USACE, BLM, FWS, City of Scottsdale, The Nature Conservancy, BOR)

Reducing Uncertainty Regarding Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity in the California Desert

University of California Riverside’s Center for Conservation Biology will create a sustainable resource monitoring framework that will provide empirical data identifying if and how climate change is changing the composition and vitality of Joshua Tree National Park. These data will then help focus the Park’s resource management programs to help ensure the Park’s rich biodiversity can be sustained to the extent possible. A broader goal is to have this framework adopted across the surrounding public lands to then integrate data from multiple sites and land management philosophies to create an unambiguous picture of the impacts of climate change across the desert region.

Cameron W. Barrows, University of California Riverside’s Center for Conservation Biology

NPS, Joshua Tree National Park

Development of a Decision Support Tool for Water and Resource Management using Biotic, Abiotic, and Hydrological Assessments of Topock Marsh

U.S. Geological Survey-Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) will build upon previous work by providing an assemblage of biotic, abiotic, and hydrologic data needed by FWS to better understand the health and function of Topock Marsh under various hydrologic conditions. FORT will develop a Decision Support System (DSS) utilizing a spatially-explicit GIS package of historical data, habitat indices, and analytical tools to synthesize outputs for hydrologic time periods. This approach will help FWS use the best available science to determine more effective water management strategies.

Joan S. Daniels, USGS-Fort Collins Science Center (FORT)

FWS, Southwest Region

FWS, Havasu NWR

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

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.

Jamie S. Sanderlin,  Rocky Mountain Research Station

USFS, Southwestern Region

Arizona Game and Fish Department

Predicting snow water equivalence (SWE) and soil moisture response to restoration treatments in headwater ponderosa pine forests of the Desert LCC

Northern Arizona University will build upon the U.S. Forest Service Four Forest Restoration Initiative in Northern Arizona to investigate how restoration efforts can affect the water volume available in the snowpack and soil moisture in the Desert LCC. This project will result in a tool that can be used to predict the water volume in snowpack and soil moisture response to various forest treatments.
Frances O'Donnell, Northern Arizona University

USFS, Rocky Mountain Research Station

NAU, Centennial Forest

Remote sensing to segregate grass and shrub mixed habitats in Janos Grassland Priority Conservation Area

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory will use, combine and optimize an array of remote sensing techniques to identify the most efficient process that characterizes grasslands and level of shrub component in those grasslands. The project will classify a pilot area, the Janos Grassland Priority Conservation Area (GPCA), which contains the majority of the Janos Biosphere Reserve, using a variety of remote sensing approaches. In the process they will identify the best techniques for decomposing grass-shrub intermix at low densities and identify the best approaches for large scale application of remote sensing to classify the desert grasslands and shrub lands.
Greg Levandoski, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory

Sonoran Joint Venture  

Sky Island Alliance

An Ecosystem Conservation Assessment for the lower San Pedro Watershed in Arizona

University of Arizona will conduct an ecosystem conservation assessment for the lower San Pedro (LSP) watershed.  The assessment will provide a science-based strategic design for prioritizing where conservation efforts are most needed for high-value biodiversity conservation at the landscape-level and offer insights on conservation actions practical for implementation.  The assessment will include an evaluation of high-value biodiversity, hydro-ecological processes, protected areas, landscape connectivity, and climate change adaptation.  The study will suggest approaches for developing a new conservation framework for watershed conservation planning.
Scott Wilbor, University of Arizona FWS, Southwest Region Lower San Pedro River Collaborative Conservation Initiative