Southwest Biological Science Center

Multimedia

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Blowing dust in a fallowed agricultural field in central Arizona.
June 30, 2017

Bare Ground = Blowing Dust

Across the desert Southwest, ground void of plant material is prone to soil erosoin and dust storms. In this fallowed agricultural field, we see that a spring breeze can carry away fertile top soil and create air quality concerns. USGS RAMPS defines causes of environmental hazards created by degraded land, and creates collaborative solutions to reduce these types of risks

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Oil pad near Vernal, Utah
June 30, 2017

Oil pad near Vernal, Utah

Oil pad near Vernal, Utah

An extremely rare Mojave River western pond turtle was recently observed in the Mojave Desert.
May 4, 2017

An extremely rare Mojave River western pond turtle

An extremely rare Mojave River western pond turtle was recently observed by USGS 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.

Person taking data in grassland with biocrust
December 29, 2016

Biocrusts in healthy grassland data collection

Person taking data in a healthy dryland grassland with dark biocrusts between bunchgrasses and cacti in Utah.

View from Canyonlands Research Center
September 29, 2016

View from Canyonlands Research Center

View from Canyonlands Research Center. 

Photo of footprint damage to biocrusts.
September 29, 2016

Footprint damage to biocrusts

Many human activities can be unintentionally harmful to biological crusts. The biocrusts are no match for the compressional stress caused by footprints of livestock or people or tracks from vehicles.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that

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Photo of biocrust
September 29, 2016

Biocrust

On the Colorado Plateau, mature biocrusts are bumpy and dark-colored due to the presence of lichens, mosses, and high densities of cyanobacteria and other organisms. Disturbed biocrusts are lighter in color, looking more like the underlying sand than undisturbed ones, and are less capable of stabilizing soils or providing soil fertility.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems

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Photo of mature, dark-colored biocrust
September 29, 2016

Dark-colored mature biocrust

On the Colorado Plateau, mature biocrusts are bumpy and dark-colored due to the presence of lichens, mosses, and high densities of cyanobacteria and other organisms. These organisms perform critical functions, such as fertilizing soils and increasing soil stability, therefore reducing dust.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes

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Photo of USGS scientist Jayne Belnap examining instrumentation to measure photosynthetic rates of biocrusts.
September 29, 2016

USGS scientist Jayne Belnap examines instruments to measure biocrust

USGS scientist Jayne Belnap examines instrumentation to measure photosynthetic rates of biocrusts.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color and thus reflect more sunlight, according to a new USGS study

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Photo of biocrust outdoor testing plots.
September 26, 2016

Biocrust outdoor testing plots.

USGS scientists created outdoor testing plots where large squares of biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time. Researchers not only looked at how the biocrusts responded, but also measured the amount of energy that the different biocrust communities reflected back into the atmosphere relative to how much energy came in from the sun.

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Photo of biocrusts providing soil stability in the desert
September 26, 2016

Biocrusts provide soil stability and prevent erosion

Biocrusts provide soil stability and prevent erosion. Soil is the foundation where plants live; if soil is not stable, native plants can have difficulty growing.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color

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Photo of outdoor testing plots where biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time.
September 26, 2016

Biocrust outdoor testing plots

USGS scientists created outdoor testing plots where large squares of biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time. Researchers not only looked at how the biocrusts responded, but also measured the amount of energy that the different biocrust communities reflected back into the atmosphere relative to how much energy came in from the sun.

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