Protecting Natural Places from Climate Change

Most natural communities in the Sonoran desert are highly sensitive to climate change (photo: mypubliclands/Flickr)


Guest Post by EarthShare member NatureServe

Imagine a calm pool of water. Over time sand and gravel settle and stabilize. Then a dam breaks, or the channel changes course, introducing a strong current. Not all the grains will respond the same way to this disruption. The current carries away smaller sediments and rearranges what remains based on size, density, and texture.

As the climate changes, it exerts a similar force on the natural world. Ecosystems will not simply “move” but will instead transform in unprecedented ways with each species responding uniquely. Natural systems will undergo profound changes, like local extinctions and, in extreme cases, ecological collapse.

NatureServe prepares land managers to anticipate these changes with knowledge about the vulnerability of the resources they manage. This essential information helps them take the most effective actions to protect natural places from climate change impacts over the coming decades.

Supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NatureServe works with partners like the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative in the U.S. and Mexico to understand how vulnerable a place might be to climate change.

In one study, NatureServe and partners focused on 16 natural communities found in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. They found that 13 out of the 16 community types were highly sensitive to direct effects of climate change, and six were highly vulnerable overall.

Said Aimee Roberson, Desert LCC Science Coordinator, “NatureServe’s analysis will enable us to better manage, protect, and conserve natural resources through a deeper understanding of the likely impacts of climate change and the actions that we must take to adapt.”

NatureServe’s freely and publicly available data and tools are used by natural-resource managers, conservation practitioners, and decision-makers from both the public and private sectors. Their network also promotes collaboration among hundreds of conservation science experts.

Without biodiversity, life on Earth would not exist. NatureServe is working to protect human health and well-being through the preservation of ecological services such as food, fiber, fuel, water, and climate regulation.


NatureServe represents a network of 80 public agencies and private-sector organizations in 14 countries across North, Central, and South America that are home to more than 600 million people. Learn more about their work here.


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