Ecoregional Assessment with NatureServe Vista

Rapid Ecoregional Assessment for the Madrean Archipelago, USASoutheastern Arizona and Southwestern New Mexico, USA
Photo courtesy Tahnee Robertson
Photo courtesy Tahnee Robertson

About This Project

The Madrean Archipelago Ecoregion Rapid Ecoregional Assessment is one of four conducted by NatureServe with the Bureau of Land Management. These large assessments select a set of "conservation elements" and then assess their status currently and for the year 2025 by modeling the effects of "change agents" such as development, wild fire, and invasive species. A 2050 timeframe is also used to assess climate change trends, climate stress on the conservation elements, and model the potential change in select conservation elements range between historical and 2050 to understand where their distribution may contract, expand, or be maintained as climate refugia. Other specific assessments of "management questions" inform issues such as soil erosion and mesquite invasion and restoration potential. NatureServe Vista DSS was used to conduct all of the assessments (except climate modeling) which has facilitated other applications in the region such as a DoD Legacy study for Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Data and the multi-volume report are available from BLM.

Goal

Assess the ecological status of the Madrean Archipelago Ecoregion and a set of ecosystem and species currently (2014) and in 2025. Also conduct a set of climate change trend and vulnerability assessments, soil erosion assessment, and potential for restoration of grasslands from mesquite invasion.

Significance

The “Sky Islands” region of southern Arizona and New Mexico harbors extraordinary levels of biodiversity. However, like many areas of the arid west, it is experiencing significant climate change effects and is increasingly impacted by invasive species and wildfire leading to soil erosion and loss of grasslands. NatureServe’s assessment of the ecoregion will help BLM better target scarce restoration dollars to improve habitats and guide land use plans and project permitting (such as for renewable energy) to reduce further impacts. In 2010 the Bureau of Land Management embarked on a program to assess the status of dozens of ecosystems and species and overall integrity of 15 ecoregions throughout the American west. NatureServe conducted four of these assessments, most recently completing this assessment called the Madrean Archipelago Rapid Ecoregional Assessment (MAR REA). We utilized our NatureServe Vista decision support system (Vista DSS) to conduct most of the work which provides an opportunity to apply the tool and data products to any number of future assessments and land-use planning activities.