Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Climate Change in the Pacific Southwest

The impacts of climate change affect our fish and wildlife resources in California, Nevada and Klamath Basin. Climate change brings physical changes that include increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, shifts in ocean currents, altered precipitation patterns and increased flood frequency. These physical effects lead to biological impacts such as changes in the distribution of plant and animals, new species invasions, disease outbreaks, disrupted food webs, and ultimately, increased pressure on fish and wildlife populaions. Dealing with these challenges will require an unprecendented level of collaboration between public and private conservation interests. Adapting to climate change will require a pragmatic perspective.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service climate change strategy, “Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change,” establishes a basic framework within which the Service will work as part of the larger conservation community to help ensure the sustainability of fish, wildlife, plants and habitats in the face of accelerating climate change. The plan is implemented through a dynamic action plan that details specific steps the Service will take during the next five years.

The Service's Strategic Plan focuses on three key elements to address climate change: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Engagement.
Adaptation: Helping to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats.
Mitigation: Reducing levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Engagement: Reaching out to Service employees; local, national and international partners in the public and private sectors; key constituencies and stakeholders; and the broader citizenry of this country to join forces and seek solutions to the challenges to fish and wildlife conservation posed by climate change.

Landscape conservation cooperatives

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, or LCCs, are self-directed conservation partnerships among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other federal agencies, States, Tribes, non-governmental organizations and others to address the challenges of climate change in an integrated fashion across broad areas. LCCs provide scientific and technical support for landscape-scale conservation in an adaptive management framework that emphasizes science-based biological planning, conservation design, research, inventory and monitoring. The products that LCCs develop help to inform and improve conservation delivery efforts on the ground. The Department of the Interior has established 21 LCCs encompassing all 50 States and U.S. Pacific Islands. LCCs in the Pacific Southwest Region include the California LCC, Great Basin LCC, North Pacific LCC and Desert LCC.

landscape conservation cooperatives in the pacific southwest

California LCC

California habitats support a wide diversity of trust resources. Marine and coastal island habitats support large populations of seabirds, shorebirds and marine mammals as well as numerous federally listed species. Wetlands and agricultural fields of the Central Valley provide essential migration stopover and wintering habitat to large numbers of waterfowl and other birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Freshwater and estuarine habitats are vital for salmon, trout and other fish. Forested habitats of the Sierra Nevada and Coastal ranges support a wide variety of native plants, amphibians, reptiles and migratory birds. All of these habitats will be affected in some way by climate change. To facilitate our response to climate change in California, the USFWS has established the California LCC. The Pacific Southwest Region is the federal lead agency for this LCC. Get the Factsheet
Go to the California LCC website

Great Basin LCC

Great Basin habitats support a wide diversity of trust resources.  Dominated by high altitude desert, the region includes large areas of sagebrush that support populations of pronghorn, pygmy rabbit, sage-grouse, sage sparrow, and sage thrasher.  Woodlands of juniper and pine support elk, mule deer, small mammals, and migratory birds.  Stands of aspen and other riparian vegetation provide essential breeding habitat for migratory birds while the region’s rivers and streams support a variety of native fish such as the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, mottled scalping, and speckled dace. All of these habitats will be affected in some way by climate change.  In the Great Basin, scientists expect climate change to lead to more frequent wildfires, more rapid spread of invasive plant species such as cheat grass and tall whitetop, and shifts in the geographic distributions of native plants and animals. These shifts will not occur uniformly and ecological relationships that have developed over thousands of years are likely to be disrupted.  Managing in the face of climate change impacts will be very challenging. The Great Basin LCC provides a critical bridge that links science and management to effectively address these challenges. The Bureau of Land Management is the lead federal agency for this LCC. Get the Factsheet
Go to the Great Basin LCC website

North Pacific LCC

North Pacific LCC marine, estuarine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats support a rich diversity of species and  food webs. They have cultural significance to Native Americans throughout the region. Our marine and coastal island habitats are essential to seabirds, shorebirds and other Pacific Flyway migratory species. Highly productive nearshore marine ecosystems are key  to sustaining healthy populations of marine mammals, Pacific salmon, forage fish, and shellfish. Forested habitats in the Pacific Coast ranges support many   resident and migrant birds, including the marbled murrelet, spotted owl, dusky Canada goose, Queen Charlotte goshawk, all species of conservation concern. Managing our North Pacific natural resources and infrastructure in the face of climate change impacts will be very challenging. The North Pacific LCC provides us the critical bridge to link science and management to effectively address these challenges. The Service's Pacific Region is the lead federal agency for this LCC. Get the Factsheet
Go to the North Pacific LCC website

Desert LCC

The Desert LCC encompasses portions of five states: California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as a substantial portion of Northern Mexico.  The area is topographically complex, including three different deserts (Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan), grasslands and valley bottoms, and the isolated mountain ranges in the southern portion of the LCC (Apache Highlands and the New Mexico-Texas Highlands, also known as the “Sky Islands”).  Elevations range from near sea level to over 10,000 feet.  The richness of the topography leads to equally diverse species composition; the area supports habitat for many native plants, fish and wildlife species, including many endemic species that are extremely susceptible to climate change.The LCC will help inform resource managers regarding potential impacts of climate change and other regional scale stressors as they develop adaptation strategies for resources in the Desert LCC. The LCC will promote an on-going dialog between scientists and land managers to create a mechanism for informed conservation planning, effective conservation delivery, and adaptive monitoring to evaluate the effects of management actions. The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are partnering to develop the Desert LCC.
Get the Factsheet
Go to the Desert LCC Website

climate change initiatives

"Bridging the Gap" Downscaling Climate Models to Inform Management Actions
A Nov. 2010 workshop brought together scientists doing cutting-edge research on climate downscaling in California with key ecologists, natural resource managers and other partners within the Califoria LCC. Presented by the California Department of Fish and Game Climate Change Work Group and co-sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey. Get more information

Great Basin Climate Change Workshop
In April 2010, the Pacific Southwest Region partnered with other federal agencies to conduct a workshop focused on Natural Resource Mitigation, Adaptation and Research Needs Related to Climate Change in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert. Get more Information.

Previous climate change workshops have focused on the coastal ecosystems of California, Oregon and Washington (see agenda and presentations), and arid and semiarid ecosystems in the southwest United States. See presentations and other workshop resources.