Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 13, pp 3263–3285 | Cite as

Designing a sustainable monitoring framework for assessing impacts of climate change at Joshua Tree National Park, USA

  • Cameron W. Barrows
  • Josh Hoines
  • Kathleen D. Fleming
  • Michael S. Vamstad
  • Michelle Murphy-Mariscal
  • Kristen Lalumiere
  • Mitzi Harding
Original Paper


Predicting species’ responses to a warming and drying (for North America’s desert southwest region) climate provides focus for monitoring to track shifts in species’ occupancy, and ultimately identifying management options to stem losses to biodiversity. Here we describe a monitoring framework to achieve that objective. A first step is to identify which species to monitor; which species will provide the greatest information for discerning the effects of climate change versus the myriad of other stressors that may impact their distributions and abundance. To select focal species we employed two complimentary approaches. One tool, vulnerability assessments (VAs), use available scientific literature to assess exposure to environmental stressors and adaptive capacity or resilience to climate change. Another approach is habitat suitability modeling (HSM) coupled with simulated temperature shifts. This method statistically combines environmental variables at known species’ locations, such as climate and terrain, to model the complex interaction of factors that constrain a species’ distribution. All other variables held constant, simulated temperature shifts can identify species’ sensitivities to those shifts and identify potential refugia. We used these tools to assess risk of local extinction due to predicted levels of climate change, as well as to identify where to locate monitoring plots to best capture the shifts in species distributions over time. A challenge in developing a monitoring program to document the effects of climate change on biodiversity is program sustainability. One way to support and enhance the sustainability of such a program will be to couple trained biologists with volunteer citizen scientists.


Mojave and sonoran deserts Biodiversity Vulnerability assessments Habitat suitability models Resource management Citizen scientists 



We thank the National Park Service Climate Change Response program for funding this project; PMIS146805, cooperative agreement H8C07080001. Additional funding was provided by the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, grant agreement F13AP00674. This project benefitted greatly after insights from Alice Miller, former Vegetation Branch Chief at Joshua Tree National Park and Andrea Compton, Chief of Resources at Joshua Tree National Park.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cameron W. Barrows
    • 1
  • Josh Hoines
    • 2
  • Kathleen D. Fleming
    • 1
    • 3
  • Michael S. Vamstad
    • 2
  • Michelle Murphy-Mariscal
    • 1
  • Kristen Lalumiere
    • 2
  • Mitzi Harding
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Conservation BiologyUniversity of California RiversideRiverside, Palm DesertUSA
  2. 2.Joshua Tree National ParkTwentynine PalmsUSA
  3. 3.Coachella Valley Association of GovernmentsPalm DesertUSA

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