The interaction of fire, climate change, and invasive species is predicted to have extreme effects for ecosystems in the interior western United States. Wildlife species that rely on riparian habitats are likely to be particularly hard hit. Climate will drive changes to river flows through modified precipitation regimes and higher temperatures. These changes will, in turn, increase the risk of severe fires within riparian woodland habitats, affecting wildlife communities.
The potential for severe changes due to climate and fire threatens our capacity to develop successful strategies to manage for the species, habitats, and natural resources of our western water ecosystems.
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have developed a coupled approach that combines species distribution models, predictions for future fire regime, and climate change vulnerability assessments to estimate the interactive impacts of climate change and fire on species that reside within riparian habitats in the Southwest.
Resource managers need tools that identify the likely future of riparian habitats under various climate and fire scenarios, not only to focus limited resources on the most critical needs for wildlife species, but to find opportunities for promoting natural regeneration of riparian woodland and wetland habitats. Building upon a risk matrix method developed by the Northern Research Station and vulnerability assessment tools developed by RMRS, this project quantifies the effects of fire and climate change on native and nonnative species residing within New Mexico riparian, wetland, and associated upland habitats.