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Abstract Detail

Conservation Biology

Frances, Anne [1], Cordeiro, Jay [2], Kabay, Edward [3], Oliver, Leah [1], Young, Suzanne [1], Young, Bruce [1].

Assessing Chihuahuan Desert Cacti for Vulnerability to Climate Change.

We assessed 28 Chihuahuan Desert cactus species for their vulnerability to climate change using the Climate Change Vulnerability Index. Most cactus species were vulnerable to climate change: 43% were moderately vulnerable, 21% were highly vulnerable, and 4% were extremely vulnerable. None of the cactus species assessed was predicted to increase with climate change, although 4% of species were predicted to be stable. Five percent of species could not be evaluated due to insufficient evidence. The Index assesses a species' exposure and sensitivity to climate change by evaluating several factors, which are then combined to determine a categorical vulnerability score. Exposure to temperature and moisture (both historical and predicted) were quantified within the cactus species' U.S. ranges using GIS analysis. To assess a species' sensitivity to climate change, we evaluated several natural and life history characteristics. For the cactus species that were vulnerable to climate change, no single factor fully explained the increased vulnerability. However, key vulnerability factors included the potential disruption of interspecific interactions, limited hydrological niches, and likely impacts from mitigation-related land use changes in response to climate change. Many of the cactus species assessed depend on other species for pollination, to generate habit (nurse plants), and for protection from herbivory (ants). Changes in climate may result in asynchronous phenological changes or range shifts between cacti and other species upon which the cacti depend, likely increasing vulnerability. Several cactus species assessed are restricted to desert regions and depend on summer rainfall for growth and reproduction. Predicted changes in seasonal precipitation patterns coupled with increased drying resulted in increased vulnerability for these species. Species rarity was not a consistent predictor of vulnerability. The result of insufficient evidence for some species highlights the need for continued research on their basic biology, genetic diversity, and measured phenological responses to climate change. The results of this study can be used to better inform management plans and conservation activities in the Chihuahua Desert region.

Broader Impacts:

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Related Links:
NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index

1 - NatureServe, 1101 Wilson Blvd., 15th Floor, Arlington, VA, 22209, USA
2 - NatureServe, c/o University of Massachusetts Boston Biology Department, 100 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA, 02125, USA
3 - University of Maryland, College Park, Conservation Biology, 0105 Cole Field House , College Park, MD, 20742, USA

climate change
plant-pollinator interactions
Chihuahuan Desert

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Topics
Session: 48
Location: Waterman Room/Chase Park Plaza
Date: Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
Time: 2:30 PM
Number: 48005
Abstract ID:587

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