Tolerance mechanisms in North American deserts: Biological and societal approaches to climate change

Z. R. Stahlschmidt, D. F. DeNardo, J. N. Holland, B. P. Kotler, M. Kruse-Peeples

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The deserts of North America and elsewhere may serve as 'ecological petri dishes' that can be used to study the general effects of global climate change (GCC) as these regions are expected to become warmer and drier at faster rates than other terrestrial regions. We highlight the biological and societal responses to such shifts in environmental parameters predicted to vary with GCC, and we introduce the term tolerance mechanism (TM) to inclusively describe the means by which organisms of natural systems or human society cope with such environmental challenges. We review the historical relationships between biological TMs and water availability, temperature, and energy resources, as well as describe societal TMs. We create a simplified conceptual model to predict the effectiveness of TMs in the context of GCC and conclude that, although currently functional, some desert TMs (e.g., biological adaptations by long-lived taxa) may be outpaced by GCC. We finish with suggested future TM-related research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-687
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2011


  • Adaptation
  • Adaptive plasticity
  • Energy
  • Global warming
  • Precipitation
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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