201 Stephenson Parkway, Suite 2100 Norman, OK 73019

Species & Ecosystems

Toward Mapping & Predicting Changes in Species Distributions & Ecosystems


Environmental changes have impacted the iconic species of our region. However, many historical datasets are difficult to access, limiting our ability to target successful management practices. Though bioclimatic envelope models can suggest changes in species distribution, non-linearities in habitat structure, phenology, etc. can affect the extent to which species actually inhabit desirable areas. Thus, managers make many decisions without adequate information regarding future scenarios.

Our Team

Established in October 2018, the Mapping and Predicting Changes in Species Distributions and Ecosystems team has 15 members:

Todd Fagin (co-lead), University of Oklahoma

Virginia Seamster, NM Dept. of Game and Fish

Kerry Griffis-Kyle, Texas Tech University

John Zak, Texas Tech University

Jim Ansley (co-lead), Oklahoma State University

Rachel Fovargue, University of Oklahoma

Bruce Hoagland, University of Oklahoma

Victor Rivera-Monroy, Louisiana State University

Jim Winterle, Edwards Aquifer

Natasja van Gestel, Texas Tech University

Jennifer Bryant, Chickasaw Nation

Maurice Cruz

Lizz Waring, Texas Tech University

Heather McCarthy, University of Oklahoma

Nick Smith, Texas Tech University


Our Projects

Milestones & Next Steps for 2021

In 2020, progress was made on the three working groups established in 2019, which has led to a few milestones for these groups in 2021 as follows:

Conceptual Paper – Climate Change Effects on Species Distributions: The goal of the conceptual paper is to evaluate past, current, and future changes in the distributions of key ecosystems and their foundational species in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. The analysis will advance the development of management strategies that consider potential conflicts in sustaining economic value versus foundation species ecosystem service as indicators of stables states and ecosystem health. To date, the conceptual paper subgroup, led by Victor Rivera-Monroy, Jim Ansley and Todd Fagin, has drafted write-ups on the following key ecosystems and foundational species: Central Plains C4 grasslands and bobwhite quail; mangrove wetlands and nutria; and south central playa wetlands fauna (tiger salamander and sandhill crane). They plan to finalize the four main sections by August 2021, and work on the final synthesis section in the fall of 2021.

Emerging Urban Ecosytems: The goal of this subgroup, led by John Zak and based on a LTER pre-proposal that was previously submitted to establish Lubbock as an emerging urban ecosystem, is to develop an understanding of the formation of, and contributions from, emerging ecosystems in cities with populations ranging from 100,000 to 300,000. Specifically, biodiversity patterns, ecosystem processes, and issues related to resilience and sustainability (e.g., plant genetics and changes in climatic suitability for plants growing in cities; availability of clean water; potential for cities to serve as ecological traps or havens for exotic species; etc.) will be analyzed in cities meeting this criterion, such as: Lubbock, TX; Norman, OK; Las Cruces, NM; and Baton Rouge, LA. Previous work looking at emerging urban ecosystems (e.g. Urban LTERs) have focused on larger cities, such as Chicago, which are not indicative of most typical urban settings in the United States.

Agency-Relevant Climate Vulnerable Species and Habitats: The key goals of this working group are to identify habitats and species across the South-Central region that are vulnerable to climate variability; identify desired conservation and management outcomes; and identify actions to achieve desired outcomes in the context of climate variability (i.e., actionable science). This subgroup designed and sent a survey to natural resource managers with state and federal agencies in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas in September, 2020. The survey was open for one month and was sent to over 260 natural resource managers. Twenty nine responses were received and a summary of these responses was shared at the 2020 virtual fall science meeting by the subgroup lead, Virginia Seamster. The subgroup, which includes Todd Fagin, Natasja van Gestel, Tim O’Connell, Maurice Cruz, and Jennifer Bryant, plans to use the survey to identify one key habitat and multiple associated species to focus on for drafting user-friendly guidelines for management practices that are climate adaptive. Once the guidelines are drafted, they may be expanded into a manuscript for publication or other habitats and associated species may be selected for crafting additional guideline in future years.

Coming up: There is potential for a paper related to the effects of extreme, climate-related events (both long and short term effects) on foundational species pending discussion at the 2021 fall science meeting.