The Mojave Desert in the southwestern United States is one of the hottest and driest areas of North America. Climate change is likely to exacerbate these conditions. The region is home to many endemic plant species, including 24 federally threatened species. The impact of climate change factors on these sensitive Mojave Desert species is relatively unknown. Here we used a climate change vulnerability assessment to determine which imperiled plants may be most affected by changing climatic conditions. We evaluated the vulnerability of each species under future climate scenarios and calculated scores using metrics such as exposure, sensitivity, niche breadth, and dispersal capability. We found that most listed plant species were vulnerable to climate change, with 21% (N = 5) classified as extremely vulnerable, 25% (N = 6) classified as highly vulnerable, and 42% (N = 10) classified as moderately vulnerable. Contributing factors most frequently associated with vulnerability included various barriers to migration, high habitat specificity, and species sensitivity to changes in hydrological patterns. Many of these species are already threatened by ongoing anthropogenic stressors such as urban growth and associated developments, and these results suggest that climate change will pose additional challenges for conservation and management. Natural resource managers can use the vulnerability ranking and contributing factors identified from these analyses to inform ecological decisions related to threatened plants throughout desert regions.
Part of the book: Endangered Plants