Biology ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-15-2016


Climate change is challenging scientists and decision-makers to understand the complexities of climate change and to predict the related effects at scales relevant to environmental policy and the management of ecosystem services. Extraordinary change in climate, and the ensuing impacts to ecosystem services, are widely anticipated for the southwestern United States. Predicting the vulnerability of Southwest ecosystems and their components has been a priority of natural resource organizations over the past decade. Supplementing vulnerability assessments in the region with geospatial inputs of high thematic and spatial detail has become vital for supporting local analyses, planning, and decisions. In this context has come the opportunity to build upon a framework of major ecosystem types of the Southwest and to assess vulnerability to climate change for each type. Herein are presented three studies that set the backdrop for vulnerability assessment, detail a novel correlative modeling procedure to predict the location and the magnitude of vulnerability to familiar vegetation patterns, and then explore applications of the resulting geospatial vulnerability surface: 1) considerations for evaluating or designing a vulnerability assessment; 2) an overview of the vegetation and climate of major ecosystem types, and 3) a climate change vulnerability assessment for all major ecosystem types of the Southwest. This work has resulted in a regionwide vulnerability surface of greater extent and higher spatial and thematic resolution than previous modeling efforts, giving local managers information on the location and degree of climate risk to vegetation resources.

Project Sponsors

US Forest Service, Natural Heritage New Mexico




Ecological Response Unit, exposure, sensitivity, climate envelope, fire severity, scrub encroachment

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Timothy Lowrey

Second Committee Member

Esteban Muldavin

Third Committee Member

Scott Collins

Fourth Committee Member

David Gutzler