Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: New Mexico
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

New Mexico Project


Evaluating adaptive capacity of desert bighorn sheep to climate change: identifying genetic links to climate adaptations in native and reintroduced populations

December 2014 - December 2017


Personnel

Participating Agencies

  • National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center

The predicted increased occurrence of extreme droughts, overall decline in precipitation and increase in temperature due to climate change has the potential to impact a large number of species in the southwestern United States. In spite of their adaptations, both domestic and wild ungulates are not always able to ameliorate the effects of high temperatures and limited water availability using behavioral and physiological mechanisms. The genetic basis for many physiological mechanisms that confer greater abilities on some species, subspecies or populations of wild ungulates to cope with limited water supply and high temperatures remains to be explored. Thus, understanding potential adaptations of desert bighorn sheep in the 3 southwestern desert ecosystems with varying temperature and aridity conditions has the potential to inform vulnerability of populations to potential future changes in climate and other stressors. Specifically, identifying certain genes that may be related to the ecology of the different desert environments can provide valuable insights regarding future adaptation actions (e.g., translocations) as the climate continues to change. Our objectives are to: 1) Assess whether desert bighorn sheep exhibit local adaptations to the different desert ecosystems with corresponding differences in seasonal climatic conditions; and 2) Provide recommendations on how managers can implement adaptation actions to maximize evolutionary potential.

Technical Publications Publication Date
Cain III, J.W., C.W. Epps, M.R. Buchalski, and L.M. Thompson. 2015. Evaluating Adaptive Capacity of Desert Bighorn Sheep to Climate Change: Identifying Genetic Links to Climate Adaptations in Native and Reintroduced Populations. Annual progress report to USGS Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. 2015-11-30
Buchalski, M.R., C.W. Epps, J.W. Cain III, and L.M. Thompson. 2017. Evaluating Adaptive Capacity of Desert Bighorn Sheep to Climate Change: Identifying Genetic Links to Climate Adaptations in Native and Reintroduced Populations. Annual progress report to USGS Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. 2017-11-30
Buchalski, M.R., J.W. Cain III, C.W. Epps, and L.M. Thompson. 2016. Evaluating Adaptive Capacity of Desert Bighorn Sheep to Climate Change: Identifying Genetic Links to Climate Adaptations in Native and Reintroduced Populations. Annual progress report to USGS Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. 2016-11-30
Buchalski, M.R., C.W. Epps, J.W. Cain III, and L.M. Thompson. 2017. Evaluating Adaptive Capacity of Desert Bighorn Sheep to Climate Change: Identifying Genetic Links to Climate Adaptations in Native and Reintroduced Populations. Annual progress report to USGS Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. 2017-11-30
Presentations Presentation Date
Buchalski, M., C. Epps, W. Boyce, M. Matocq, R. Crowhurst, B. Holton, L. Thompson, E. Rubin, and J.W. Cain III. 2017. Environmental adaptation in desert bighorn sheep throughout their North American range. 2017 Biennial Meeting of the Desert Bighorn Council, St. George, Utah, USA. 2017-04-19