More than 95 percent of New Mexico has experienced mean temperature increases over the last 30 years.
Climate change is leaving its mark on the Southwest with rising temperatures, drying streams, larger and more severe wildfires, droughts and large-scale forest dieback.
Flowering plants are out of synchrony with their pollinators. Many plants and animals must seek new habitats and migration routes.
In response to this challenge to our mission in New Mexico, the Conservancy is joining with policy makers, community members, businesses, scientists, industry leaders and others to:
- Protect carbon-absorbing habitats on a large scale
- Reduce the accumulation of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere
- Help natural areas adapt to the impacts of climate change
- Encourage businesses and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint
Southwest Climate Change Initiative: Local = Global
Tackling a changing climate in New Mexico means identifying vulnerable parts of the state and conserving and restoring those places in ways that make them more resilient to warming temperatures and more frequent and deeper droughts.
In 2008, the Conservancy initiated the Southwest Climate Change Initiative (SWCCI) to prepare conservation practitioners in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah for the challenge of sustaining species, habitats and ecosystems in a rapidly changing climate.
Participants identified four projects that would serve as models for climate adaptation through research, partnerships and action, including the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. These projects are organized into a “learning network” designed to foster innovation and collaboration, and to create a practical toolkit of field-tested approaches for understanding and responding to the impacts of climate change.
Jemez Mountains: A Model For Building Resilience
In the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico, temperatures rose faster during the 20th century than in any other place in the state. Over the years, the Jemez Mountains have suffered massive forest fires and a severe drought that killed nearly all mature piñon pines and reduced flows of important streams.
Due to their location and relative isolation, the Jemez Mountains serve as an outpost for northern species such as the ermine and the bog birch, and species that occur nowhere else, including the Jemez Mountains salamander and the Goat Peak pika.
For centuries, this landscape has also provided water, livelihoods and recreation opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people.
In 2009, natural resource managers and scientists identified the following actual and projected impacts of climate change on the Jemez Mountains.
- More frequent and severe droughts and floods
- Less snow and more rain
- Earlier peak stream flows due to early spring snowmelt
- Longer fire seasons and increased fire frequency, size and severity
- Extreme post-fire erosion and ash deposition
- Increased stream temperatures
- Large-scale forest dieback
- More frequent bark beetle outbreaks
The Conservancy is engaged in several projects to help species and habitats in the Jemez Mountains cope with climate change, including:
- Southwest Jemez Restoration Strategy: Restoring 210,000 acres of forest, woodland and streams in the Santa Fe National Forest, the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Jemez Pueblo; integrating climate science into management decisions; and managing for a changing landscape.
- Climate-smart Conservation Strategies for the Jemez Mountains Salamander: Pursuing an applied research project that will integrate restoration guidelines for mixed conifer forests with habitat conservation for this unique and declining amphibian.
- Outreach and Capacity Building for Addressing Climate Change in the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests: Building knowledge of climate issues and promoting adaptation action among the professionals who manage three million acres of at-risk public land.
- Restoring Trout Streams Damaged by Wildfire and Drought: Protecting and reconnecting stream habitat and reintroducing native fish like the Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
SWCCI Founding Partners
Climate Assessment for the Southwest
(University of Arizona)
National Center for Atmospheric Research
The Nature Conservancy
University of Washington
USDA Forest Service
Western Water Assessment
(University of Colorado)
Wildlife Conservation Society
>>Help Prepare New Mexico for Climate Change! Rising temperatures are already taking their toll in New Mexico’s mountains and other places across the state. If unaddressed, climate change will dramatically affect future generations. With your support, we can build upon the progress we’ve made to date. The time to act is now.