Monitoring Climate Variability and Change in the Western United States
Mountain ecosystems of the western United States are complex, and include cold desert biomes, such as those found in Nevada, subpolar biomes found in the upper treeline zone, and tundra ecosystems, occurring above timberline. Many studies (e.g. Thompson 2000) suggest that high elevation environments, comprising glaciers, snow, permafrost, water, and the uppermost limits of vegetation and other complex life forms are among the most sensitive to climatic changes occurring on a global scale. The stratified, elevationally-controlled vegetation belts found on mountain slopes represent an analogue for the different latitudinally-controlled climatic zones, but these condensed vertical gradients are capable of producing unique hotspots of biodiversity, such as those that serve as habitat for a variety of species ranging from butterflies, frogs and toads, to species of birds, trout and salmon. High relief and high gradients make mountain ecosystems very vulnerable to slight changes of temperatures and to extreme precipitation events (Parmesan 1999; Pounds et al. 1999).
KeywordsElevational gradient Station data coverage Temperature change Western US Mountains
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