Scientists conduct cutting-edge research on genetics and climate change across various elevation gradients in northern Arizona.

The Arboretum at Flagstaff is in collaboration with Northern Arizona University to build the Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA). Using experimental gardens, scientists are conducting cutting-edge research on genetics and climate change across various elevation gradients in northern Arizona. Simply put, researchers are looking for plant genotypes (individual plants or communities) that may withstand increasing temperatures and drought. Some climate models are predicting the disappearance of ponderosa pines by 2090. Wouldn’t it be great to find populations of these trees that could survive the changing climatic conditions?

The expectation is that SEGA researchers will identify plants able to withstand the changing climate in the southwest, with the goal of providing this information to land managers and others for conservation and restoration projects. Managed translocation, or assisted migration, involves transplanting or moving plant communities to areas that may be outside their original ranges. In some cases, assisted migration may be the only way to ensure their survival in the wild.

Each experimental garden will be outfitted with an array of instruments to measure precipitation, wind speed, snow load, temperature, etc. Elevation gradients will be used as a stand in for precipitation (which increases with elevation.) Various soil types will be utilized as well. Data will be collected from all ten gardens and analyzed—with the expectation that specific genotypes will be identified.  The SEGA project will also identify populations of native plants that may out-compete invasive species. And assisted migration may be utilized to combat invasives, as well.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust is providing funding for development of place-based climate change teaching curricula and public outreach. The Arboretum at Flagstaff educators are working to develop materials that avert politicization and public passivity regarding climate change. They are developing best practices in teaching climate change, middle school education curricula and curriculum guides across content areas, educational exhibits, public education, docent training materials and much more.