This project kicks off the University of California, Riverside (UCR), Center for Conservation Biology’s Desert Climate Resilience Initiative. The goals of the project are to improve overall scientific expertise and community engagement around the relationship between several key themes: native plant communities; climate change and carbon sequestration potential/stored carbon in the desert; and building equity within the Coachella Valley. Here we seek to improve the state of knowledge about the resilience of desert ecological communities, accessibility of ecosystem services to the community, and identify priorities for investments in land resources. We are investigating which areas in the Valley will be most exposed to climate change, or by contrast, which act as important refugia for carrying biodiversity into the future. As part of this process, we are identifying species and habitats sensitive to climate changes and assess carbon stocks within the Valley in the context of global greenhouse gas concentrations.
Specific work with partners will help us understand whether those areas currently used for outdoor recreation by underserved communities are resilient to climate change and improve connections between scientific researchers and the public. This project aims to build capacity for long-term research and collaboration in the Coachella Valley concerning carbon and vegetation conservation and protecting the integrity of ecosystems with a special focus on participating in pathways into scientific careers for underserved communities. Tangible outcomes of this project will be used to inform on-the-ground management and identify further research and management needs.