Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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CARLSBAD FWO: Monitoring Climate Change and Impacts on Listed Plants in Southern California
California-Nevada Offices , August 21, 2009
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NASA partner programming data logger, soil sensors in foreground (photo:USFWS)
NASA partner programming data logger, soil sensors in foreground (photo:USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Two sensors monitoring plant physiology (photo:USFWS)
Two sensors monitoring plant physiology (photo:USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

The Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (CFWO) has initiated a climate monitoring partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California and the U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF), to establish a ground-based sensor array that will collect continuous data on local climate conditions keyed to forest conifers. Information collected will include air and soil variables, solar radiation, and plant physiological data, such as vegetation sap flow, enabling the CFWO and SBNF to develop future management strategies for imperiled species in the mountains of southern California.


Staff from the CFWO, Tony McKinney, GIS Coordinator, and Gary Wallace, Botanist, will work alongside partners Kyle McDonald, Principal Scientist, NASA JPL, and Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering University of California at Los Angeles, and Scott Eliason, Mountaintop District Botanist, SBNF, in this climate monitoring partnership.


“Right now, we want to start building baseline data to determine the trajectory of the local climate,” said Tony McKinney. “The data will be collected 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provide us with long-term monitoring capabilities for specific information about local vegetation.”


Initial costs for this project are estimated to be $30,000, of which NASA JPL is providing $15,000 in matching funds through equipment and personnel.  The CFWO will provide $10,000 from a grant awarded through the Office of the Science Advisor to the Director, as well as provide $5,000 of in-kind support to collect, manage, and analyze the data. 


The immediate goal of the partnership is to set up a sensor site within a target area of the San Bernardino Mountains. “The site is selected based upon site defensibility, concentration of endemic plants and animals, and other unique features in the vicinity,” said McKinney. It is also located in close proximity to critical habitat designated for 10 federally listed plant species. The listed plants include: five carbonate plants, three pebble plains plants, and two mountain meadows plants.


This cooperative effort will use proven protocols and upgradable technologies.Information gathered from the site will allow correlation between climatic parameters and plant physiological responses collected at the same site in real time, and then correlated with satellite data to track climatic changes in the larger landscape,” said McKinney.  “Additionally, the information will help predict the effects of climate change on other, nearby listed species: two plants, one amphibian, and several bird and animal species found in or near the San Bernardino Mountains.”   

Understanding the impact of changing climatic parameters on habitats and plant species will allow the CFWO and SBNF to identify and measure the local, seasonal development of plant and animal life cycles and possible changes of plant distributions in the immediate vicinity. Furthermore, it will allow the CFWO and SBNF to predict how these changes may apply to the larger landscape of the southern California mountains. 

“The site location is predicted to experience significant changes,” said McKinney. “It is logistically close to monitoring personnel and other resources, plus the area supports a significant number of sensitive and listed species.”


During the first year, the CFWO will characterize the site and have baseline data on the forest conifers being electronically monitored.  In addition, the CFWO and SBNF will augment data collected for the designation of critical habitat, as well as the associated plant and animal species.  By the fourth year, it is anticipated that climate change impacts on these listed species and their habitats will become evident.


NASA JPL has established a set of ground-based monitoring stations in Alaska and the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Data from this effort will be part of a latitudinal transect to study the effects of climate change on local and continental environments.




Contact Info: Stephanie Weagley, 805-644-1766, stephanie_weagley@fws.gov
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