The University of Arizona


Photo of blackened tree trunks after a forest fire

Still standing. Burnt tree trunks in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Credit: ©Alexey Stiop,

Drought is projected to increase in intensity and frequency. With less soil moisture, vegetation may become more susceptible to wildfires, pests, or diseases, causing higher vegetation mortality and degraded habitat for wildlife.

Although many factors influence the occurrence of wildfires in the Southwest, studies show that a hotter, drier climate will increase the intensity and frequency of wildfires. Historical fire records show that drought years and years with warmer-than-average temperatures often coincide with high-frequency wildfire years.

Invasive Species
Changing climate conditions could alter the Southwest landscape by helping invasive species expand into new areas. Many invasive species already in the region are well adapted to high temperatures and drought conditions. In some cases, this helps them outcompete native species.

Phenology is the study of life cycle events such as flower blooms, insect activity, or animal migration, which are linked to regular seasonal patterns. Studies indicate some Southwest plant species are blooming earlier in the year and moving into higher elevations, likely the result of a warming climate.

Species Redistribution
Climate is a major factor in regional plant distribution. Studies suggest that higher temperatures are causing species ranges to shift towards the poles and upwards in elevation.