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

River Ecosystem Science Branch

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 the rivers in the Southwest.

RES (GCMRC) Science


An extremely rare Mojave River western pond turtle was recently observed in the Mojave Desert.
May 23, 2017

An extremely rare Mojave River western pond turtle was recently observed by U.S. Geological Survey scientists and staff from The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in the Mojave Desert. Turtles of this population have rarely been seen since the late 1990s.

A radio-tracked adult desert tortoise basks in the sun among the wind turbines at a wind energy facility
May 3, 2017

How a wind energy facility is designed can influence the behavior of animal predators and their prey, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

6" tall hardware cloth connectivity modifier (ConMod) used to provide a safe space for native plant seedling establishment
April 18, 2017

Mike Duniway and Becky Mann were interviewed by KZMU, a community radio station located in Moab, UT. They discussed a strategy that uses 6" tall structures to provide safe places for native plant seed germination and seedling survival, and should benefit restoration efforts in water-limited systems.


Year Published: 2017

Biological soil crusts: Diminutive communities of potential global importance

Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) are widespread, diverse communities of cyanobacteria, fungi, lichens, and mosses living on soil surfaces, primarily in drylands. Biocrusts can locally govern primary production, soil fertility, hydrology, and surface energy balance, with considerable variation in these functions across alternate community states...

Ferrenberg, Scott; Tucker, Colin; Reed, Sasha C.
Ferrenberg S., Tucker C.L., Reed S.C. Biological soil crusts: diminutive communities of potential global importance Front Ecol Environ 2017; 15(3): 160–167

Year Published: 2017

Climate change may restrict dryland forest regeneration in the 21st century

The persistence and geographic expansion of dryland forests in the 21st century will be influenced by how climate change supports the demographic processes associated with tree regeneration. Yet, the way that climate change may alter regeneration is unclear. We developed a quantitative framework that estimates forest regeneration potential (RP) as...

Petrie, M.D.; Bradford, John B.; Hubbard, R.M.; Lauenroth, W.K.; Andrews, Caitlin; Schlaepfer, D.R.
Petrie, M.D., Bradford, J.B., Hubbard, R.M., Lauenroth, W.K., Andrews, C.M., Schlaepfer, D.R., 2017, Climate change may restrict dryland forest regeneration in the 21st century: Ecology, vol. 98, no. 6, p. 1548-1559,

Year Published: 2017

The evolution of different maternal investment strategies in two closely related desert vertebrates

We compared egg size phenotypes and tested several predictions from the optimal egg size (OES) and bet-hedging theories in two North American desert-dwelling sister tortoise taxa, Gopherus agassizii and G. morafkai, that inhabit different climate spaces: relatively unpredictable and more predictable climate spaces, respectively. Observed...

Ennen, Joshua R.; Lovich, Jeffrey E.; Averill-Murray, Roy C.; Yackulic, Charles B.; Agha, Mickey; Loughran, Caleb; Tennant, Laura A.; Sinervo, Barry
Ennen, J.R., Lovich, J.E., Averill-Murray, R.C., Yackulic, C.B., Agha, M., Loughran, C., Tennant, L., Sinervo, B., 2017, The Evolution of Different Maternal Investment Strategies in Two Closely Related Desert Vertebrates: Ecology and Evolution, vol. 7, no. 9, p. 3177-3189,