Organ Pipe National Monument research suggests hotter, drier climate may be affecting snakes, lizards
Many lizard and snake species populations are crashing at Organ Pipe National Monument, researchers have found.
The declines match a recently discovered global decline in snakes and lizards that scientists say could be linked to climate change.
University of Arizona research scientist Phil Rosen said his analysis found 50 percent declines in eight snake species and a half-dozen lizard species that he has trapped for 22 years at Organ Pipe Monument, about 140 miles southwest of Tucson.
He thinks climate could be a factor, because the lizard and snake species whose populations dropped are far more sensitive to heat and drought, respectively, than those whose populations didn’t drop there, Rosen said. The National Park Service financed and conducted most of the monitoring for the research, which is ongoing.
The monument’s six declining lizard species “make a living in the sun,” by being active in the open and shuttling between small patches of shade and the sun. So when the monument’s temperatures rise, the heat affects them more, he said. Six species that didn’t decline live in trees or on the ground at night, and can stay active in hotter temperatures.