Climate Change in New Mexico

In New Mexico and much of the Southwest, natural resource managers lack information about how they can anticipate and adapt to the effects of regional climate change. New Mexico was the first chapter in the Conservancy to answer that need by creating the Climate Change Ecology and Adaptation Program which provides land and water managers with information about climate change in our state's past, present and future.

New Mexico Climate Change Adaptation Project

We are assessing the impacts of climate change on New Mexico's biodiversity and identifying local level adaptation strategies that can help build ecological resilence to ongoing climate change.

Recent Changes in Climate in New Mexico at a Glance

  • Over 95% of New Mexico has experienced mean temperature increases.
  • Warming has been greatest in the western and central parts of the state.
  • Most of New Mexico's mid- to high-elevation forests have experienced warmer and drier conditions.
  • Of the 48 cases of ecological changes that are linked to climate change across New Mexico and the Southwest, over half involved species population declines.
  • Over 50 of the state's native animals and plants are already affected by climate change to some degree, including the Jemez Mountains salamander and Sacramento Mountains thistle.
  • High-mountain species and water-dependent species are particularly vulnerable.

Southwest Climate Change Initiative (SWCCI)

The Nature Conservancy initiated the SWCCI in 2008 to provide guidance to conservation practitioners and land managers in climate change adaptation planning and implementation on more local scales. This project specifically aims to: (1) further develop and expand our impacts assessment protocol to adjacent states in the Southwest (AZ, CO, and UT), and (2) apply a vulnerability assessment tool being developed by the U.S. Forest Service and an adaptation planning framework developed by a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) working group to a series of case-study sites in the four states. The case studies will provide opportunities to further test and refine each component of the overall framework, by building on new research, strengthening existing partnerships, and laying the foundation for future innovation, including on-the-ground application and testing of adaptation strategies. Together, these field-tested tools will be useful in developing conservation action and monitoring plans (e.g., a climate change module in TNC's CAP process), forest and fire plans, and in building a regional learning network, all crucial to meeting the challenges posed by climate change for conservation.

Landscape Workshops

A series of landscape workshops where scientists and managers explored how to use climate change information to adjust their management practices. The documents below illustrate how focusing on climate change in a particular landscape can generate specific and concrete ideas for climate adaptation action.

Confronting the Threat

On October 22, 2007, The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico, in collaboration with the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) and the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth brought together key local, state, tribal and federal natural resource managers with agency and academic scientists to review climate change science, articulate management concerns, share management strategies and identify opportunities to address climate change adaptation challenges. Link to overview of workshop outcomes (McCarthy, Enquist, and Garfin, 2008).

Providing Visionary and Practical Solutions to Climate Change

The Nature Conservancy is joining with policy makers, community members, businesses, scientists, industry leaders and others to slow the pace of climate change. We work to:

  • Protect carbon-absorbing habitats on a large scale
  • Reduce the accumulation of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere
  • Help natural areas adjust to the impacts of climate change
  • Encourage the public to be carbon neutral through our Carbon Calculator found on