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Climate Change in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert — Workshop on Natural Resource Needs
Released: 4/19/2010 3:41:54 PM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Dan Balduini, FWS
Phone: 702-286-9323

Leslie Gordon, USGS 1-click interview
Phone: 650-793-1534

In partnership with: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Managemen, Desert Research Institute

Note to editors: Reporters are welcome to attend all sessions of the workshop. Scientists and managers will be available for interviews.

LAS VEGAS — Scientists and natural resource managers will gather in the Student Union building at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas April 20 - 22, 2010 for a workshop on natural resource mitigation, adaptation and science research related to climate change in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert.

This inter-organizational workshop will focus on how climate change is affecting natural resources in the deserts of the western U.S., as well as the land, water, and species management and research needs that are essential to address in the coming decade.

More information about the workshop and a full program are available online.

Highlights of the workshop include these presentations: (in chronological order) 


Tuesday, April 20, 2010,

UNLV Student Union, Ballrooms B&C

1:30 p.m. Department of the Interior’s climate change science, adaptation, and mitigation strategy, Thomas Armstrong, Senior Advisor for Climate Change, U.S. Department of the Interior 

DOI harbors a unique collection of scientists, land managers and other professionals who conduct the science, monitoring and management to assess the impacts of climate change. Successful adaptation of our nation’s treasured landscapes, ecosystem services, and fish and wildlife requires an integrated DOI-wide strategy and an unprecedented collaboration between public and private partners.

2:15 p.m. Climate Variability and Change in the Great Basin: Observations and Projections, Kelly Redmond, Desert Research Institute

The consensus among climate projections for the next 90 years is that the Great Basin and Mojave Desert will warm, and that annual precipitation will remain near historical values in the north and decrease in the south.

5:00 p.m. Climate change adaptation options for public lands and resources, J. Michael Scott, U.S. Geological Survey

Federal conservation land holdings provide a significant safety net for plant and animal diversity throughout the United States. Climate change will have mixed and pervasive effects throughout these lands. Refuges and other public lands are not fixed islands of safe haven for species and the previous goal of preserving dynamic equilibrium must be abandoned.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

UNLV Student Union, Ballroom A

6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

# 2. Renewable energy locations for existing and potential facilities within BLM leased land, Scott Davis, Bureau of Land Management

BLM is prioritizing the development of renewable energy on public lands to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The Western Governors Association collaborated with numerous stakeholders identifying areas in 11 western states with vast renewable energy resources. Environmental analysis included balancing the benefits of renewable energy with the needs to protect other resources such as crucial wildlife habitat.  

# 4. Southwest Ecosystem Services Project, Nita Tallent-Halsell, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA’s project is a multi-year research initiative to study ecosystem services and the benefits they provide. These benefits include water supply and protection of water quality, flood protection, wildlife habitat support, and food and fiber. Scientists are collaborating with others to develop and implement the methods, models and tools, to map and assess the expected changes of ecosystem services under a variety of alternative future scenarios. 

# 11. Potential for water salvage by release of the biocontrol beetle, Diorhabda elongata, on Tamarisk dominated rivers, Pamela Nagler, U.S. Geological Survey

The beetle, Diorhabda elongata, has been widely released in the upper basin of the Colorado River to control the invasive Tamarisk plant in the western U.S. Motivation for beetle release is to salvage water that would otherwise be lost to transpiration by Tamarisk. Satellite studies support observations that beetle damage is spotty and localized at most sites, and reduction in water loss is confined mainly to July when beetles are actively feeding. 

# 16. Projecting future changes in sagebrush distribution in the Great Basin, Sean Finn, U.S. Geological Survey

Satellite images to detect changes in sagebrush communities coupled with future climate scenarios were used to estimate of the direction and trend of land cover change. Refinement of this approach will provide tools and information for regional land and resource management in the face of a changing climate.

# 18. Geospatial integration of hazards, infrastructure and resources in an assessment of potential disasters and effects of climate change in Clark County, Nevada, Swapan K. Sahoo, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV

UNLV geoscience students are collaboratively developing a database of known potential environmental, anthropogenic, and natural factors that could influence the population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area. These hazards maps and data may help to educate residents, develop action plans for emergency services, and even provide information for policy-makers in the future.

# 28. Quantifying the effects of climate change within the Navajo Nation, Miguel Velasco, U.S. Geological Survey

Native Americans of the southwest live on ecologically sensitive semiarid to arid lands with limited resources. On the 65,000 km2 Navajo Nation, southern Colorado Plateau, traditional people often live a subsistence lifestyle. Increased temperature and changing precipitation are transforming the landscape and negatively affecting the residents.

# 42. Assessing the geology and geography of large-footprint energy installations in the Mojave Desert, California and Nevada, David M. Miller, U.S. Geological Survey

Large-footprint energy installations such as solar and wind farms are proposed for wide areas of dry lands that are publicly owned. Geologic deposits in these areas are susceptible to wind-blown dust and sand, and much of the area is susceptible to flooding. Geologic maps can be used for decision-making with respect to hazards and ecological attributes in the face of climate change.

# 43. Climate change and land use effects on atmospheric dust in the western United States, Harland L. Goldstein, U.S. Geological Survey

Dust emission within western United States has far-reaching effects on human health and safety, ecosystem health, land management, desertification, and runoff. A warmer western United States, coupled with human and natural disturbance of desert landscapes, will result in more dust emission relative to recent decades.



Wednesday, April 21, 2010

UNLV Student Union, Ballrooms B&C

8:40 a.m. Species Conservation in a Changing Environment: Strategies at National Wildlife Refuges of Southern Nevada, Cynthia T. Martinez, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The National Wildlife Refuge System was established to conserve fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats by ensuring that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the System are maintained for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. Martinez compares management strategies responsive to climate change in the southern Nevada Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

9:20 a.m. Fuels and Fire Regimes of the Great Basin and Mojave Desert, Matt Brooks, U.S. Geological Survey

The Great Basin and Mojave Desert are characterized by isolated mountain ranges with steep slopes separated by broad basins. A broad range of fuel types supports a variety of fire regimes. Brooks will discuss the prominent fuel types that dominate most of the area, their associated fire regimes, recent fire trends, and explain where invasive plants have had their greatest effects. Potential future climate change will alter these current conditions, and will have implications for fire management.

11:30 a.m. Cross-boundary management in a changing environment – a new era of collaboration, Jeanne C. Chambers, USDA Forest Service

The Mojave and Great Basin deserts are characterized by a complex mosaic of land ownership where both ecosystems and species transcend these boundaries. Administrative boundaries inevitably lead to ecological boundary zones that influence ecological processes and can hinder movement of plant seeds and animals in a changing environment.

1:30 p.m. Climate Change: Water Needs & Strategies for a Sustainable Future, Tony Willardson, Western States Water Council

Average temperatures in the West have reportedly risen 2-5ºF during the 20th century. As the West warms, snowfall and snowpack have diminished, and an increasing fraction of winter precipitation is falling as rain, rather than snow. Western snow packs are melting earlier with peak runoff coming 10 to 30 days earlier. Climate changes need to be considered at all levels of water resources planning, and, states need to examine their existing legal regimes related to water use in light of climate change.

1:50 p.m. Water Resources And Ecosystem Stability In the Changing Climates of the North American Deserts, Robert H. Webb, U.S. Geological Survey

Decadal climate shifts are well documented in the western United States, with known effects on water resources and ecosystem stability. Patterns of alternating wet-dry conditions characterize the climate of the intermountain West, and ecosystems have responded to the boom-bust climate cycles. Although desert ecosystems may undergo substantial changes owing to predicted decreases in winter precipitation, river-bank ecosystems may be most threatened by the combination of regional climate change and increasing water development.

2:10 p.m. Monitoring ecological response to climate change in National Parks, Bruce B. Bingham, National Park Service

A decade after Congress greatly increased the funding for the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Program to accelerate natural resource inventories, the momentum to connect monitoring, planning, and decision making continues to grow. New funding will expand monitoring of ecological indicators of climate change within the framework of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.

2:30 p.m. New research infrastructure in Nevada for climate change science, education, and outreach, Michael H. Young, Desert Research Institute

The Nevada System of Higher Education received a five year research and infrastructure development award from the National Science Foundation to create a statewide interdisciplinary program and virtual climate change center that will stimulate research, education, and outreach on the effects of regional climate change on ecosystem resources (especially water) and to support use of this knowledge by policy makers and stakeholders.

3:10 p.m. Potential effects of energy development and climate change on terrestrial wildlife, especially the desert tortoise, Jeffrey E. Lovich, U.S. Geological Survey

Utility-scale renewable energy development and climate change may greatly affect terrestrial wildlife in the desert Southwest where the potential for producing renewable energy, especially from solar resources, is very high. Energy development has the possibility to affect large areas of habitat directly and indirectly through intense but short-lived construction activities and long-term operations.



Thursday, April 22, 2010

UNLV Student Union, Ballrooms B&C

12:00 noon The Heat is On: Desert Tortoises & Survival, Stephen M. Wessells and Steven E. Schwarzbach, U.S. Geological Survey 

A thirty-minute movie exploring the world of the Mojave desert tortoise, showing how science is being used to aid in the recovery of this threatened species.


Thursday, April 22, 2010 

UNLV Student Union, Ballrooms B&C

1:00 p.m. Natural resources needs related to climate change in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert, Julio Betancourt, U. S. Geological Survey 

Two uncertainties in resource and ecosystem management in the western U.S. are natural climate variability and anthropogenic climate change. Advances in climate modeling could lead to robust forecasts on the scale of months to a decade. A clear research directive is for the scientific community to determine how ecosystems have responded to what is being billed in the West as the early stages of anthropogenic climate change.

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