The National Park Service (NPS) faces tremendous management challenges in the future as climates alter the abundance and distribution of plant species. These challenges will be especially daunting in the southwestern U.S., where large increases in aridity are forecasted. The expected reduction in water availability will negatively affect plant growth and may result in shifts of plant community composition. Synthesis of climate and plant vital sign data from National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) networks is essential to provide park managers with important insights into contemporary climate responses and a sound basis to forecast likely future changes at species, community, and ecosystem scales. We describe a collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NPS in which we have conducted regional cross-site assessments across the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts to understand plant species responses to past climate and forecast future plant community composition. We also determined whether a widely-implemented vegetation monitoring protocol in these deserts is suitable to track long-term vegetation changes caused by climate and other factors. Our results from these analyses are intended to help natural resource managers identify and prepare for changes in plant cover and community composition and evaluate the efficacy of current monitoring programs.