Rainout shelter used to simulate drought conditions
This project works to understand how the future hot and dry conditions forecasted for the southwestern US may affect plants, soils, and nutrient cycling in different vegetation types with and without surface disturbing activities (e.g., livestock, energy development). This information enables better predictions of future forage base and habitat for wildlife and livestock. Information is obtained by imposing experimental drought on the dominant plants on major soil types that characterize the Colorado Plateau, including comparison of shrubs with grasses with varying degrees of drought-tolerance on both coarse and fine soils at different elevations and under differing land use. Plant and soil responses are measured at these sites and compared to control sites to improve our ability to forecast vegetation response to different climate scenarios.
This project also measures factors influencing dust production, its deposition on nearby mountain snowpack, its influence on snowmelt and the quantity, quality, and timing of water entering major rivers.
Why is this research important?
Hotter and dryer conditions forecasted for the southwestern US may affect plants, soils, and nutrient cycling in different vegetation types with and without surface disturbing activities (e.g., livestock, energy development). Because dust production and deposition on snowpack affects snowmelt, water supplies in the western US may be affected. The ability to anticipate changes in the magnitude and timing of freshwater availability is necessary to develop sustainable resource management decisions and policies.