We do not inherit the
earth from our ancestors,
we borrow it from
our children.
- Native American Wisdom

Assessing Impacts of Climate Change

Recently, utilizing a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to Friends of Saguaro -- Saguaro National Park initiated scientific research to help managers develop proactive management strategies to adapt to climate change, and to engage the public in specific conservation efforts that will address long-term environmental change at the park.

Understanding climate/ecological dynamics is important to both short-term management decisions and long-term planning for projected climate change.  What are the changes in animal and plant composition, structure, and productivity that are occurring in the desert ecosystem?  How will wildlife and plants respond to increasing variability in climate-related parameters, such as temperature, mean rainfall, and aridity?

Climate change is expected to alter ground and surface water quantity, as well as seasonal patterns of flooding and drought -- and the park's seeps, springs, and tinajas will be a direct indicator of those changes.  What are the impacts of diminished winter rains and mountain snows on recharge rates for the region's aquifers?  The possibility of groundwater reduction could potentially have broad-scale impacts on surface water systems.  For animals that depend on these water sources during the hottest, driest months of the year -- including mammals such as mountain lions and coatis, many birds, and aquatic species such as leopard frogs -- this aspect of climate change is particularly distressing.

This research initiative will help Saguaro National Park collect the scientific data necessary to begin to address these questions, and prepare for the emerging impacts of climate change.