Science and Innovation

Sitting high and mainly dry, residents of the Colorado Plateau don’t have to worry about rising sea levels as the Earth’s climate warms. But in recent years parts of the plateau have experienced record warming and low moisture, damaging winter storms, and severe wildfires and flooding.

Whether these are short-term weather events, or signs of a longer-term change in climate, remains to be seen. But some in the region are already adapting to what they fear could be even greater impacts caused by an altered climate.

Cecline LeBlanc

How do you start a garden? That’s a lesson students at the West Sedona Elementary School have recently learned. And they learned it so well that they received a 2011 Youth Garden Award from the National Gardening Association.

USDA Forest Service

For many residents of the mountain west, warmer temperatures may not sound too bad.

But small differences in temperature can make a big difference.

Consider bark beetles. They’re native to the region’s conifer forests. Normally, the insects emerge in summer. Females bore into the cambium layer of trees and sever vessels that contain resin, releasing a sticky flow that “pitches out” the beetles. But in weaker trees that lack sufficient resin swarms of beetles can quickly chew enough wood tunnels to kill their hosts.

For centuries, New Mexico’s Pueblo peoples have relied on the plants and animals of the Río Grande to sustain their lifestyles and traditions. But in recent times the river has been impacted by development, diversion, and flood control. That can make it difficult to maintain some key cultural practices. What is the purpose of a deer dance, for example, if there are no deer?

Not content to sit idly by, three pueblos near Española, in northern New Mexico, have formed an unprecedented alliance to mitigate damage along a dozen miles of river corridor.

As the weather gets warm, it’s an inviting time to get out and observe wildlife. In other seasons too there are creatures to see and hear—ducks nesting on summer lakes, elk bugling in the fall, and bald eagles overwintering.

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