Southwest Biological Science Center


The Southwest Biological Science Center (SBSC) conducts quality, objective research on the lands and aquatic systems of the Southwest. This research can assist those who manage, conserve, and rehabilitate the arid regions of the nation. Click on SCIENCE in the sidebar to the left to explore SBSC science in more detail.

Terrestrial Dryland Ecology Branch

Terrestrial Dryland Ecology Branch

The Terrestrial Dryland Ecology (TDE) Branch of the SBSC studies the biology, ecology,and processes of semi-arid and arid lands (known as drylands). TDE researchers study plant-soil-water relationships and the wildlife found in drylands.

TDE Science

River Ecosystem Science Branch & GCMRC

River Ecosystem Science Branch & GCMRC

The River Ecosystem Science (RES) Branch of the SBSC, which includes the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC), studies the biology, ecology, and processes of rivers in the western United States, with an emphasis on the Southwest.

GCMRC & RES Science


Date published: June 11, 2020

Plant Genetics Informing Restoration in the West

Three recently published papers by the Southwest Biological Science Center illustrate how genetics can aid in plant restoration efforts in the arid American West. Collectively, the papers reveal genetic variation of a bunchgrass species used in restoration efforts, evidence for hybridization between two species of grass used in restoration, and a discussion of seed transfer zones

Date published: May 26, 2020

Secret, Pristine Grassland Provide Scientists Precious Insight Into How Undisturbed Ecosystems Function

Southwest Biological Science Center and National Park Service personnel were featured in a KSL TV story about a hidden, pristine grassland in Canyonlands National Park that is used for scientific study.

Date published: May 20, 2020

RESEARCH BRIEF: Cost- benefit analysis of vegetation removal + seeding

Weighing costs relative to outcomes: woody and invasive plant removal followed by seeding in shrublands and woodlands.

New study by RAMPS researchers examines how the costs of vegetation treatments related to outcomes. 


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Year Published: 2020

Climate-induced abrupt shifts in structural states trigger delayed transitions in functional states

Theoretical models suggest that ecosystems can be found in one of several possible alternative stable states, and a shift in structural stable state (SSS) can trigger a change in functional stable state (FSS). But we still lack the empirical evidence to confirm these states and transitions, and to inform the rates of change. Here, a 30-yr dataset...

Hao, Yanbin; Liu, Wenjun; Xu, Xingliang; Munson, Seth M.; Cui, Xiaoyong; Kang, Xiaoming; He, Nianpeng; Wang, Yanfen

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Year Published: 2020

Multiple mechanisms determine the effect of warming on plant litter decomposition in a dryland

In drylands, where soil fertility is typically low, plant litter decomposition provides particularly critical carbon and nitrogen inputs into soil. Although climate change is projected to increase the already large global extent of drylands, it is unknown how warmer temperatures will affect core ecosystem processes, such as plant litter...

Chuckran, Peter F.; Reibold, Robin H.; Throop, Heather L.; Reed, Sasha

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Year Published: 2020

The right trait in the right place at the right time: Matching traits to environment improves restoration outcomes

(Munson) The challenges of restoration in dryland ecosystems are growing due to a rise in anthropogenic disturbance and increasing aridity. Plant functional traits are often used to predict plant performance and can offer a window into the potential outcomes of restoration efforts across environmental gradients. We tracked 15 years of seeding...

Balazs, Kathleen R.; Kramer, Andrea T.; Munson, Seth M.; Talkington, Nora; Still, Shannon; Butterfield, Bradley J.