New report shows how global warming will affect birds and reptiles in the Southwest.

 red-tailed hawk
Global warming will take a toll on reptiles and birds in the Southwest. @bberwyn photo.

Many bird species could lose between 78 and 85 percent of their existing habitat

Staff Report

Birds and reptiles in the Southwest that live in fragmented habitat will be hit hardest by global warming in the decades ahead, according to a new study by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Northern Arizona University.

The researchers took a close look at about 30 different animals, including well-known species such as the Gila monster, horned lizard, chuckwalla, Sonoran desert tortoise, pinyon jay, pygmy nuthatch, sage thrasher and black-throated sparrow.

A few species could see their habitat expand as the climate warms, but many others will be hit hard by global warming. Most climate models project temperatures to increase by about 6 degrees Fahrenheit in the Southwest in the next century, while precipitation is expected to decline by between 5 and 20 percent.

The study was aimed at identifying conservation strategies to help wildlife survive those rapid changes. The findings were reached by combining data from global climate change models with new species distribution models “to estimate future losses and gains of Southwestern bird and reptile species,” said Dr. Charles van Riper III, senior research ecologist with the USGS and report co-author.

  • The researchers found nuances in how different species will respond to climate change:
  • One-third of the ranges are predicted to expand, while two-thirds are predicted to contract.
  • Several reptile species are projected to lose between 25 and 72 percent of their range, including the Gila spotted whiptail, Arizona black rattlesnake and ornate box turtle.
  • Numerous bird species are projected to lose between 78 and 85 percent of their range, including Williamson’s sapsucker, sage thrasher, red-naped sapsucker and pygmy nuthatch.

Species that currently live in warmer areas during any season may see their habitat expand, while species that currently live in wetter spring and summer locations

An important finding by the authors was bird or reptile species that currently occupy warmer locations in any season may experience range gains, whereas species that currently occupy wetter spring or summer locations may experience range contractions.

Another key finding by the authors was that the more fragmented bird and reptile ranges are under today’s conditions, the more vulnerable they appear to the future effects of climate change.

“Proactive land management actions that enhance landscape connectivity and conserve core areas might lessen the severity of range contractions projected over the coming century for birds and reptiles,” said James Hatten, lead author and research biogeographer with the USGS. “Land management actions that reduce the distance between habitat patches, increase connectivity, and enlarge core areas could be helpful for bird and reptile species across the landscape.”

The study found that, when they included data on climate change impacts to plants in their models, the projections for birds and reptiles became more dire.

When the authors modeled the assumption that reptiles will not be able to disperse fast enough to escape a shifting climate (think of animals with tiny or no legs), all their future ranges contracted. When the authors assumed reptiles can disperse as fast as the climate shifts, such as birds, over half of reptile species’ ranges expanded, but the authors think this is highly unlikely given the life histories of many reptiles. In contrast, several desert-scrub bird species (black-throated sparrow, gray vireo and sage sparrow) are projected to increase their future ranges by over 30 percent.

“Climate-related biodiversity disruption is likely to be a central theme of natural areas stewardship in the 21st century,” said Lisa Thomas, National Park Service program manager for the Southern Colorado Plateau Network. ‘By using an integrated modeling approach, the authors were able to evaluate exposure and sensitivity for a range of bird and reptile species to predicted climate change.”

The study was a partnership of the USGS, Northern Arizona University and University of New Mexico. The work was supported by the DOI Southwest Climate Science Center, which is managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The center is one of eight that provides scientific information to help natural resource managers respond effectively to climate change.


5 thoughts on “New report shows how global warming will affect birds and reptiles in the Southwest.

  1. …TODAY, Humans have become the PRIMARY FORCE affecting climate and the changes threatening our current level of civilization.

    “… humans have known about anthropogenic (man made) global warming (AGW) for almost 200 years.

    A National Geographic piece,Why Is the Man Who Predicted Climate Change Forgotten?, names Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) as a founding father of global warming science.

    Guardian names George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882) as the author of “the
    1847 lecture that predicted human-induced climate change.”

    NASA likewise reminds us, “The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.”

    I have Searched and Searched and have not found Al Gores Signature on these Seminal Research reports/ lectures.

    the apparent inability of many of our current policy makers to accept
    the scientific reality of climate change, the science is not new.

    Fifty-nine years ago, on Oct. 28, 1956, the New York Times ran a story in their Science in Review section entitled ‘Warmer climate on the earth may be due to more carbon dioxide in the air.’”

    The Legitimate Scientific Community issued a report & warning to President Eisenhower in 1958.

    The Legitimate Scientific Community issued a research report & warning to President Johnson in 11/5/1965.

    Another Warning:
    entire forests were browning and dying, the legitimate
    scientific community reported that tiny amounts of INDUSTRIAL waste
    Gasses & Chemicals were being disposed of by unrestrained pumping into the

    A conservative President with science, took quick precise action ….those forests have been replanted.

    Another Warning:

    epidemics of skin cancers around the globe, were examined by the
    Legitimate scientific community, and found the Industrial/Commerical
    Gasses and Chemicals
    were being pumped into our atmosphere.

    Another Conservative President took quick efficient action and last month we learned that the ZONE HOLE
    has shrunk by 20%.!

    CO2 and other fossil fuel waste products have been pumped into the atmosphere in FAR LARGER massive quantities than
    the Gasses & Chemicals we already LEARNED can damage the atmosphere and the world’s environment.

    Today, the Threat is Apparent.
    *****The Last 20 Years have been the HOTTEST 20 Year Period in history.

    Legitimate Science examined in detail, proxy measures like ice cores
    around the world, we learn that the last 20 YEARS HAS BEEN the HOTTESTIN
    Thousands of years.

    Temps are rising, ocean levels are rising and surface areas increase.Between the added heat and moisture to our atmosphere……
    *World Wide Storms have doubled.
    *Storm intensity has nearly doubled.
    *Heat waves have nearly doubled.

    *Droughts have doubled.
    *Flooding events have doubled.

    News Media is in near panic mode as their populations are watching
    yearby year, snow packs and glaciers decrease…..visibly decrease. That
    is their PRIMARY source of water for drinking and irrigation.

    Earth’s 270 Largest fresh water lakes are warming at twice the
    atmospheric temperature rise….leading to increased algae Blooms and
    fish die offs.

    *10 of the 15 busiest hurricane seasons have occurred since 2000.
    *The World’s strongest Hurricane occurred just last year.

    *Just Last year 3 SUPER TYPHOONS occurred as the same time.

    In the early 20th century about 6 towns or cities had some tidal flooding.
    dozens of US towns & cities have routine Tidal/Storm flooding.
    ….you can watch Norfolk, Virginia flood on YouTube.

    Miami and New York are spending large amounts of money in preparation of sea rise and storm surges.

    TRILLIONS of Dollars of US infrastructure lie less than 3 feet or so, of sea level, our ports and port cities, many power grids, highways, etc.
    Arctic is experiencing a heat wave. Alaska reached temperatures in the
    80s, with Deadhorse reaching a record-high temperature of 85 degrees on
    Wednesday evening. Other cities including Bettles and Eagle reached 85,
    Fort Yukon hit 84, and Nenana reported 87.

    “A pulse of warm air
    the North Slope of northern Alaska on Wednesday, bringing some of the
    warmest air ever recorded there,” meteorologist Jeff Masters explained
    on his blog, Weather Underground.

    “Even with the
    24-hour sunlight it receives during most of July, the North Slope
    typically experiences highs only in the 50s and lows in the 30s.”

    *Fairbanks also officially reported 87, but one record showed Fairbanks’ airport reaching 96 degrees Wednesday.

    Meanwhile hundreds of miles south in Orlando, Fl.,
    reached 94 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Miami
    and Daytona Beach only rose to 92 on Wednesday.Temperatures in Fairbanks
    could reach 90 degrees on Thursday or Friday, National Weather Service
    meteorologist Rick Thoman reported to the Alaska Dispatch News…..”

    the Bugs know what is going on in this world……The Lowly pine
    Beetle, for thousands of years confined to southern warm

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