Mapping the desert tortoise

If and when climate change begins to significantly affect the desert tortoise, where might the threatened species be able to live? A new map developed by the United States Geological Service in Las Vegas aims to provide a clue.

While previous maps for the tortoises have relied on informed opinion and extrapolation, this one is the first to use quantitative numbers and data. The researchers collected information about where the tortoises live now, the types of conditions they need to survive, and which areas provide those conditions now. They took that information and overlaid it onto a map of the Southwest United States. The information should come in handy as climate change, development and other man-made influences are expected to cause the tortoises’ habitat to shift. For example, reports Discovery News, the map could be used to help policymakers determine where to build highways and renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar power plants.