Precipitation and temperature are primary factors that determine an ecosystem’s structure and function. Other factors include long-term climate patterns, such as timing, duration, and intensity of extreme weather (like frosts and violent downpours), and the variance in seasonal dynamics between and among years.
These drivers greatly influence which plant species are present, habitat suitability for wildlife, surface and subsurface hydrology, how nutrients are cycled, and the relationships between soil, plants, and water availability. They can also affect how susceptible—or resilient—an ecosystem is to disturbance. In the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion, vast differences in aspect and topography make for a spatially variable climate.
Information on broad-scale weather and climate conditions helps guide fire management, habitat protection, and restoration activities, and allows us to predict exotic plant invasion, surface water availability, and plant dieoffs or recruitment events. It can also help the Chihuahuan Desert Network understand changes in other vital signs.