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Recovery and vulnerability of the Mojave Desert ecosystem:


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Desert surfaces are inherently fragile, and many land uses disrupt the thin crusts that typically protect the landscape from wind and water erosion. Depiction of the vulnerability of soils to wind erosion requires development of a wind-erosion GIS model, measurement of wind speed, direction, and duration at specific sites, experimentation using portable wind tunnels on disturbed and undisturbed geomorphic surfaces, and the development of GIS data layers depicting wind potential and other factors related to wind erosion. Increased water-erosion potential following disturbances is an important part of landscape vulnerability, and quantification of sediment yields allows an assessment of the natural variability in water-transported sediment [...]


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The field and process studies and insights gained from these background studies will form the scientific framework necessary to conceptualize and parameterize vulnerability and recoverability models for desert ecosystems. These models will use the detailed data and measurements available from the field sites to estimate vulnerability and recoverability rates for regions surrounding the sites and then to larger regions and the entire ecosystem at decreasing levels of reliability. Subsequent to the initiation of site studies and model development will be development of a comprehensive regional monitoring strategy for land managers to assess, on a continuing basis, the vital signs of the ecosystem. This strategy will make use of remote sensing to supplement field observation to improve efficiency and improve spatial attributes of desert health estimates. Incorporation of these assessment measures (particularly over time) with vulnerability and recoverability models in a decision support system will give land managers a multiscale look at ecosystem health yesterday, today, and tomorrow.



  • Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center (FRESC)


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