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Southwest Biological Science Center

Welcome to the Southwest Biological Science Center (SBSC). We conduct quality, objective research on the lands and aquatic systems of the Southwest. This research can assist those who manage, conserve, and rehabilitate arid regions of the nation. Click the links below for our work on the Colorado Plateau, Colorado River in Grand Canyon, and terrestrial drylands in Arizona, California, and Utah.

News

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Twenty-four Years of Data Show Desert Soils Struggle for Survival

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Arizona USGS Social Media

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National Seed Strategy FY21

Publications

Soil depth and precipitation moderate soil textural effects on seedling survival of a foundation shrub species

In drylands, there is a need for controlled experiments over multiple planting years to examine how woody seedlings respond to soil texture and the potentially interactive effects of soil depth and precipitation. Understanding how multiple environmental factors interactively influence plant establishment is critical to restoration ecology and in this case to broad-scale restoration efforts in west

Decline in biological soil crust N-fixing lichens linked to increasing summertime temperatures

Across many global drylands, biocrusts form a protective barrier on the soil surface and fill many critical roles in these harsh yet fragile environments. Previous short-term research suggests that climate change and invasive plant introduction can damage and alter biocrust communities, yet few long-term observations exist. Using a globally unique long-term record of continuous biocrust surveys fr

Environmental filtering controls soil biodiversity in wet tropical ecosystems

The environmental factors controlling soil biodiversity along resource gradients remain poorly understood in wet tropical ecosystems. Aboveground biodiversity is expected to be driven by changes in nutrient availability in these ecosystems, however, much less is known about the importance of nutrient availability in driving soil biodiversity. Here, we combined a cross-continental soil survey acros

Science

Lake Powell Research

Lake Powell is a large arid reservoir that represents about 70% of the water storage capacity for the Upper Colorado River Basin. It is the second largest reservoir in the United States by capacity (second only to Lake Mead). Lake Powell is an oligotrophic reservoir, which means that nutrient concentrations and algal production are generally low. This often results in very clear-water conditions...
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Lake Powell Research

Lake Powell is a large arid reservoir that represents about 70% of the water storage capacity for the Upper Colorado River Basin. It is the second largest reservoir in the United States by capacity (second only to Lake Mead). Lake Powell is an oligotrophic reservoir, which means that nutrient concentrations and algal production are generally low. This often results in very clear-water conditions...
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The Gemini Solar Project

The United States is developing renewable energy resources, especially solar, at a rapid rate. Although renewable energy development is widely perceived by the public as “green technology,” construction, operation, maintenance, and eventual decommissioning of facilities all have known and potential negative impacts to natural resources, including plant communities and wildlife. This is especially...
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The Gemini Solar Project

The United States is developing renewable energy resources, especially solar, at a rapid rate. Although renewable energy development is widely perceived by the public as “green technology,” construction, operation, maintenance, and eventual decommissioning of facilities all have known and potential negative impacts to natural resources, including plant communities and wildlife. This is especially...
Learn More

Drought & Grazing Experiment: Understanding Impacts and Identifying Mitigation Strategies

Drylands (sometimes called ‘deserts’ or ‘arid and semi-arid' ecosystems) are defined by water scarcity. Understanding how land-use activities may effect dryland ecosystems and dryland ecological processes is a high priority for land conservation and management. Grazing by domestic livestock (typically cattle but also sheep and goats) is the most widespread land-use in drylands globally and a large...
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Drought & Grazing Experiment: Understanding Impacts and Identifying Mitigation Strategies

Drylands (sometimes called ‘deserts’ or ‘arid and semi-arid' ecosystems) are defined by water scarcity. Understanding how land-use activities may effect dryland ecosystems and dryland ecological processes is a high priority for land conservation and management. Grazing by domestic livestock (typically cattle but also sheep and goats) is the most widespread land-use in drylands globally and a large...
Learn More