New Mexico Highlands University Seed Award

Synergistic effects of climate change and invasive species on native fauna in a highland aquatic ecosystem

Lead Investigator: Jesus Rivas

Project Summary

As climate change progresses, the impact of these changes in New Mexico is expected to produce increases in temperature and longer and more intense droughts. These increased droughts create new stresses on local fauna and flora and in particular have the potential to intensify negative impacts of invasive species on native species. Invasive species are the single worst conservation problem at the species levels as they may exploit habitats and prey on species with no adaptations to cope with the new interspecies pressures. For aquatic organisms, intensified droughts will produce severe problems as the reduction of habitat and resources leads to increased competition and predation pressure by the invasive species. Thus there is a synergistic effect of the invasive and the climate change that may potentially have a stronger effect on native populations, weakening ecosystem resilience. We propose to evaluate the impact of a predominant introduced aquatic species, the American bullfrog, on native aquatic vertebrates in Northeastern New Mexico in relation to heightened droughts. This research is part of a collaborative effort between several faculty at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) and Wind River Ranch and will provide numerous opportunities for training minority undergraduate students in several STEM disciplines.

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