Center Researcher Contributes to Major Report on Climate Change in California
Photograph: Fragile Oasis via Flickr
This summer, the California Energy Commission published a major report assessing the state's vulnerability to climate change. The report looked at threats to infrastructure and human health, the effects of climate change on agriculture, water resources and wildfires, and sought to identify the most vulnerable ecosystems in the state.
Maria Santos is an ecologist and postdoctoral scholar at the Bill Lane Center for the American West.
The culmination of 18 months of work, the report brought together contributions from over 120 researchers, among them the Center's postdoctoral scholar, Maria J. Santos, who co-authored the paper "Identifying Vulnerable Species and Adaptation Strategies in the Southern Sierra of California Using Historical Resurveys."
Santos and her colleagues focused on a transect of the southern Sierra Nevadas that includes Yosemite National Park, an area whose flora and fauna had been extensively surveyed in the early to mid 20th century. By comparing present-day observations with the historic data, the team was able to see how small mammals changed their ranges over the last century. Moreover, because the Yosemite transect contains both developed and protected areas, the team was able to gauge the effect of human actions as well.
The study found that species at high altitudes reacted differently to direct and indirect effects of climate change than did those at mid and low elevations. While their most suitable habitats tended to move to lower elevations, the animals themselves tended to move to higher altitudes in response to changing conditions, suggesting that the adaptive capacity of a number of species to climate change may be limited.
Santos says that the wealth of evidence provided by the historical resurvey will make it possible to develop better models for how future climate change could impact habitats and the species that depend on them.
The complete report is available from the California Energy Commission.