Vulnerability of Species to Climate Change in the Southwest: Terrestrial Species of the Middle Rio Grande
We used a vulnerability scoring system to assess the vulnerability of 117 vertebrate species that occur in the Middle Rio Grande Bosque (MRGB) to expected climate change. The purpose of this project was to guide wildlife managers on options and considerations for climate change adaptation. The 117 species occur regularly in the MRGB during the breeding season, winter, or year-round. In general, future climate scenarios predict warmer temperatures with an altered precipitation regime that will likely lead to reduced water levels in the MRGB.
This assessment points to several key issues relating to future habitat changes and individual species physiology that are expected to affect species survival under climate change. Decreased availability of mesic sites is expected to directly impact many amphibian and reptile populations and is expected to have indirect effects for birds and mammals primarily through changes in habitat availability.
We predicted that phenological changes will negatively impact many species within all taxonomic groups through altered timing of weather events and river flow. Riparian-dependent species received some of the highest vulnerability scores. Species already at the southern limit of their distributional range were also predicted to be more likely to be vulnerable to climate change.
The assessment also identified important data gaps. Management for species conservation under future climate conditions will require increased research and monitoring, greater integration of landscape-scale approaches, consideration of future land-use scenarios, and increased understanding of the consequences of species’ interactions. We review the specific implications of climate change for wildlife in the MRGB in order to identify intervention points and approaches that may achieve management goals.