A $6.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation is helping scientists from the University of New Mexico study the ecological impacts of climate change in a new way.
UNM Biology Professor Dr. Jennifer Rudgers is leading the project, which brings together 35 scientists from 16 universities and five disciplines (biology, ecohydrology, climate science, geography, and education) to address one of the most pressing challenges facing us today — the consequences of climate change on our arid lands. The scientists will do a majority of the research at the vast Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico.
“Predicting how drylands will change into the future involves understanding the impacts of two key aspects of climate change: warming temperature and increasingly variable rainfall. We don’t yet have a good handle on the possible impacts of variability in climate, because studying year-to-year variability requires a lot of long-term data, plus experiments that push systems toward the climate extremes we expect in the future,” Rudgers said about the new program. “The timescale to do this exceeds standard funding cycles, so long-term research support is critical to this scientific frontier,” she said.
Drylands cover more than 40 percent of terrestrial land surface and are rapidly expanding in geographic extent. The new UNM-based Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research program (SEV-LTER) collects ecological and environmental data on five major dryland biomes (pinon-juniper woodland, juniper savanna, Great Plains grassland, Chihuahuan Desert grassland, and Chihuahuan Desert shrubland). These ecosystems come together on the 230,000 acres of the Sevilleta site.