Resistance and resilience of riverine systems in the southwestern U.S. to climate change
Riverine ecosystems in the southwestern US have historically been driven by hydrologic extremes. Water plays multiple roles in these systems, functioning as a limiting resource during dry periods in riparian zones and intermittent reaches, while creating catastrophic disturbance during flood events in both rivers and riparian zones. Flooding and drying events structure food webs and ecosystem dynamics in these linked systems. Specific species traits and behaviors can help increase system resistance and resilience to floods and drying in heterogeneous basins.
Southwestern US riverine ecosystems may be fairly resistant and resilient to some degree of climate change in basins with variable habitat and low levels of human modification. However, extreme climate change, especially when combined with intensive human homogenization of basin conditions, may lower system resistance and resilience, fundamentally altering whole basins.