Four people with shovels plant an evergreen tree.
Climate-ready trees Helping Albuquerque neighborhoods fight climate change © Roberto Rosales

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Tree Experts Release City’s First-ever Climate-Ready Tree List

Locally adapted research provides information that will help Albuquerque's initiative to plant 100,000 trees.

As the effects of climate change become more apparent, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in New Mexico and several partners have released the first climate-ready tree list specifically designed for Albuquerque. These trees are the most resilient for our changing climate. They would not only survive, but also thrive, through their lifespan. Netleaf hackberry, desert willow and crape myrtle top the list along with several fruit trees.

Like many other cities, Albuquerque has a low tree canopy—a mere 10-percent. Additionally, temperatures are rising because of climate change. Some neighborhoods are five degrees hotter than nearby communities because a large amount of concrete and asphalt – combined with little vegetation – radiates heat at night.

“Trees provide shade, cool temperatures, clean our air and improve our health,” says Sarah Hurteau, urban conservation director for TNC in New Mexico. “The climate-ready tree list will play a key role in the city’s initiative to plant 100,000 trees over the next 10 years. We want to plant the right trees in the right places at the right time to get the most benefits for our future.”

Hurteau led the project with 10 experts from across the Southwest. They first developed a list of 136 species to be evaluated, including fruit trees, ornamentals, shade trees and native species from across the region. Following USDA heartiness zones – a national framework based on temperature compatibility – combined with future climate predictions, the team scored trees to determine which ones are most ready for our warmer, drier conditions.

“I’ve been in the tree industry for 50 years,” says Andrew Lisignoli, Sales Manager, Trees of Corrales, Ltd. “Knowing which trees are ready to face climate change will help us plan for the future. Growers need to start the production process now.”

Trees are Joran Viers’ life in more ways than one. Viers, who is the city forester for Albuquerque, has had a love of trees since his childhood when he climbed them. “We have new alternatives – such as blue oak and screwbean mesquite which will add tree diversity to our canopy. The City will share this tool with planners to add to parks, medians and more.”

TNC will provide easy-to-use guides for municipalities, neighborhoods and individuals, which will include tree suggestions under specific site conditions to supplement our existing videos illustrating best practices around planting, watering and tree care.

During a recent arborist conference in Denver, Lisignoli recommended that cities across the country replicate this resource based on local trees because the impacts of climate change are widespread.

This tree research was based off of a framework developed by McPherson et al, which was published in 2018 in the scientific journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

To see the full list, visit nature.org/newmexicotrees.

Partners for Climate Ready Trees Include:

  • Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority
  • City of Albuquerque
  • Judith Phillips Desert Oasis
  • Land and Water Summit
  • Native Plant Society
  • New Mexico State Forestry
  • New Mexico State University, Extension
  • Northern Arizona University, Center for Ecosystem Science and Society
  • Tree of Corrales
  • University of New Mexico, Biology
  • Waterwise Landscapes 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.