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December 1, 2022

Soils play a strong role in determining how New Mexico’s diverse landscapes will respond to climate change. Soil cover acts like a sponge, holding in water that falls as rain or snow. The presence of soil supports vegetation, and substantially reduces runoff and erosion. Soil enhances other processes such as infiltration of water and aquifer recharge. Soils can be damaged by a warming climate. Loss of vegetation in the Northwest High Desert and Eastern Plains, where soils are not well developed and easily damaged, will lead to dustier conditions in much of the state. On mountain hillslopes, the loss of vegetation cover in response to ongoing climate change will increase soil erosion, which then increases hillslope runoff. This, in turn, causes additional increases in soil erosion and bedrock exposure, which can largely prevent widespread recolonization by most plants, including trees. Soils on mountain hillslopes that face south, which are typically hotter and drier, will be damaged sooner by a warming climate than those on generally north-facing hillslopes that are slightly cooler and moister. Soils take many thousands of years to form, so these hillslopes will increasingly support sparse forests, or, in some circumstances, be entirely deforested. These changes are already well underway in some mountains in New Mexico.

Publication Year 2022
Title Soils
Authors Leslie D. McFadden, Anne C. Tillery, Craig Allen
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Index ID 70237132
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center