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


Dryland agriculture in the Northwestern Great Plains ecoregion.
October 17, 2017

Future high temperature extremes and soil moisture conditions may cause some regions to become more suitable for rainfed, or non-irrigated, agriculture, while causing other areas to lose suitable farmland, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.  

A wildfire in a forest
September 7, 2017

A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Image: Burning Sagebrush
September 6, 2017

An examination of long-term data for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management finds that land treatments in the southwestern United States are increasingly large, expensive and related to fire and invasive species control.


Year Published: 2018

Ecosystem thresholds, tipping points, and critical transitions

Abrupt shifts in ecosystems are cause for concern and will likelyintensify under global change (Scheffer et al., 2001). The terms‘thresho lds’, ‘tipping points’, and ‘critical transitions’ have beenused interchangeably to refer to sudden changes in the integrityor state of an ecosystem caused by environmental drivers(Holling, 1973; May, 1977)....

Munson, Seth M.; Reed, Sasha C.; Peñuelas, Josep; McDowell, Nathan G.; Sala, Osvaldo E.
Munson, S.M., Reed, S.C., Peñuelas, J., McDowell, N.G., and Sala, O.E., 2018, Ecosystem thresholds, tipping points, and critical transitions: New Phytologist, v. 218, p. 1315-1317,

Year Published: 2018

Population dynamics of the northern tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda carinulata) in the Colorado River Basin

Throughout the Southwestern United States, riparian systems contain narrow belts of vegetation along streams and rivers. Although only a small percentage of the total land cover, this ecosystem is important for maintaining high species diversity and population densities of birds. Anthropogenic changes to Western riverine systems have enhanced...

Jamison, Levi R.; van Riper, Charles
Jamison, L.R., and van Riper, C., III, 2018, Population dynamics of the northern tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda carinulata) in the Colorado River Basin: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1070, 67 p.,

Year Published: 2018

The response of source-bordering aeolian dunefields to sediment-supply changes 1: Effects of wind variability and river-valley morphodynamics

Source-bordering dunefields (SBDs), which are primarily built and maintained with river-derived sediment, are found in many large river valleys and are currently impacted by changes in sediment supply due to climate change, land use changes, and river regulation. Despite their importance, a physically based, applied approach for quantifying the...

Sankey, Joel B.; Kasprak, Alan; Caster, Joshua; East, Amy; Fairley, Helen C.
Sankey, J.B., Kasprak, A., Caster, J.J., East, A.E., and Fairley, H., 2018, The response of source-bordering aeolian dunefields to sediment-supply changes 1--Effects of wind variability and river-valley morphodynamics: Aeolian Research, v. 32, p. 228-245,