Mike Duniway, Ph.D.
Dr. Michael (Mike) Duniway is a soil scientist focused on soils and soil processes in dryland ecosystems and the interactions between environmental and land-use drivers, vegetation, soils, and geomorphology. His areas of focus include restoration, ecohydrology, effects of land-use (grazing, energy, and recreation), dust production, plant-soil feedbacks, and soil mapping and interpretations.
Brief Research Description: In his research and outreach activities, Dr. Duniway seeks to provide information for land managers and owners to facilitate sustainable land-use activities. He works closely with federal agencies partners (BLM, NPS, NRCS, USFWS, and others) in designing research studies, conducting technology transfer, and outreach activities. Some primary current research focuses include understanding impacts of drought on Colorado Plateau landscapes, evaluating recovery of oil and gas pads on the Colorado Plateau and opportunities for improved restoration practices, developing novel restoration techniques for highly disturbed lands using biological soil crusts and physical barriers, and basic research into the importance of soils for dryland ecosystem processes.
- B.S. 1994 Environmental Resource Science University of California, Davis, CA
- Ph.D. 2006 Agronomy (Soil Science) New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Research and Professional Experience
- 2011-Present Research Ecologist USGS SBSC, Moab, UT
- 2010-2011 Research Soil Scientist USDA ARS Jornada, Las Cruces, NM
- 2006-2010 Research Soil Scientist (post doc) USDA ARS Jornada, Las Cruces, NM
- 2012-Present Adjunct Faculty USU, Logan, UT
- 2007-Present Adjunct Faculty NMSU, Las Cruces, NM
- See our recent LCC webinar!
- My Google Scholar Page
- Canyonlands Research Center
- Jornada Experimental Range
- Landscape Toolbox
- Uranium Mining in Arizona
Science and Products
The field of digital soil mapping has bridged the classic theories of soil science into the modern computing age to produce high resolution maps. This body of work utilizes classic soil factorial theory (soil = f[climate, organisms, relief (topography), parent material, time] + ɛ, or ‘clorpt’). The clorpt framework has been approximated using various environmental spatial data layers to...
Wind erosion of soils and dust emissions are a significant resource management challenge on the Colorado Plateau. Loss of topsoil and associated aeolian sediment (wind-driven sediment) movement can lead to reduced soil fertility as well as abrasion and burial of vegetation. Dust in the atmosphere poses a threat to human health, visual resources, and regional water supplies (due to interactions...
Drylands comprise ~35% of Earth’s terrestrial biomes, with over 1 billion people depending on these landscapes for their livelihoods. In the U.S., drylands comprise ~40% of the landmass and 83% of Department of Interior (DOI)-managed lands (excluding Alaska). Due to their vast extent nationally and globally, changes to these landscapes have the potential to affect global climate regulation. A...
Deserts of the southwestern US are replete with oil and gas deposits as well as sites for solar, wind, and geothermal energy production. In the past, many of these resources have been too expensive to develop, but increased demand and new technologies have led to an increase in exploration and development. However, desert ecosystems generally have low resilience to disturbance. More frequent,...
In the southwest US, monsoon precipitation increases sharply along a northwest to southeast gradient. Pleuraphis jamesii or galleta grass, is an important C4 grass species that spans across this large range in precipitation pattern. In this study we are assessing the ability of galleta grass to adapt to changes in the seasonality of rainfall (termed “plasticity”). In the fall of 2014, we...
Historic over-grazing of arid grasslands in the Intermountain West has led to widespread soil erosion, loss of plant diversity, and invasion by exotic species. Degraded grassland conditions can be very persistent, even after livestock use has ceased. For example, in national parks on the Colorado Plateau, livestock have been excluded for decades, but soil and native plants have not recovered...
In drylands, chronic reductions in water availability (press-drought) through reduced precipitation and increased temperatures may have profound ecosystem effects, depending on the sensitivities of the dominant plants and plant functional types. In this study, we are examining the impacts of moderate, but long-term chronic drought using a network of 40 drought shelters on the Colorado Plateau...
In drylands, short-term extreme droughts can have profound ecosystem effects, depending on the timing (seasonality) of drought and the sensitivities of the dominant plants and plant functional types. Past work suggests that cool season drought may disproportionately impact regionally important grass and shrub species. In this study, we are examining the impacts of extreme seasonal drought on...
Elevated aeolian sediment transport on the Colorado Plateau, USA: The role of grazing, vehicle disturbance, and increasing aridity
Dryland wind transport of sediment can accelerate soil erosion, degrade air quality, mobilize dunes, decrease water supply, and damage infrastructure. We measured aeolian sediment horizontal mass flux (q) at 100 cm height using passive aspirated sediment traps to better understand q variability on the Colorado Plateau. Measured q‘...Nauman, Travis; Duniway, Michael C.; Webb, Nichloas P.; Belnap, Jayne
Life history characteristics may be as important as climate projections for defining range shifts: An example for common tree species in the intermountain western US
AimPredictions of future suitable habitat for plant species with climate change are known to be affected by uncertainty associated with statistical approaches, climate models and occurrence records. However, life history characteristics related to dispersal and establishment processes as well as sensitivity to barriers created by land‐use may also...Copeland, Stella; Bradford, John B.; Duniway, Michael C.; Butterfield, Bradley J.
Beyond traditional ecological restoration on the Colorado Plateau
The Colorado Plateau is one of North America's five major deserts, encompassing 340,000 km2 of the western U.S., and offering many opportunities for restoration relevant to researchers and land managers in drylands around the globe. The Colorado Plateau is comprised of vast tracts of public land managed by local, state, and federal agencies...Winkler, Daniel E.; Backer, Dana M.; Belnap, Jayne; Bradford, John B.; Butterfield, Bradley J.; Copeland, Stella; Duniway, Michael C.; Faist, Akasha M.; Fick, Stephen E.; Jensen, Scott L.; Kramer, Andrea T.; Mann, Rebecca; Massatti, Robert; McCormick, Molly L.; Munson, Seth M.; Olwell, Peggy; Parr, Steve D.; Pfennigwerth, Alix; Pilmanis, Adrienne M.; Richardson, Bryce A.; Samuel, Ella; See, Kathy; Young, Kristina E.; Reed, Sasha C.
Landsat time series analysis of fractional plant cover changes on abandoned energy development sites
Oil and natural gas development in the western United States has increased substantially in recent decades as technological advances like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have made extraction more commercially viable. Oil and gas pads are often developed for production, and then capped, reclaimed, and left to recover when no longer...Waller, Eric K.; Villarreal, Miguel; Poitras, Travis; Nauman, Travis; Duniway, Michael C.
Soil water dynamics at 15 locations distributed across a desert landscape: insights from a 27‐yr dataset
Desert ecosystems are primarily limited by water availability. Within a climatic regime, topography, soil characteristics, and vegetation are expected to determine how the combined effects of precipitation, temperature, and evaporative demand of the atmosphere shape the spatial and temporal patterns of water within the soil profile and across a...Duniway, Michael C.; Petrie, Matthew D.; Peters, Debra P. C.; Anderson, John P.; Crossland, Keith; Herrick, Jeffrey E.
Insights from long-term ungrazed and grazed watersheds in a salt desert Colorado Plateau ecosystem
Dryland ecosystems cover over 41% of the earth’s land surface, and living within these important ecosystems are approximately 2 billion people, a large proportion of whom are subsistence agropastoralists. Improper grazing in drylands can negatively impact ecosystem productivity, soil conservation, hydrologic processes, downstream water...Duniway, Michael C.; Geiger, Erika L.; Minnick, Tamera J.; Phillips, Susan L.; Belnap, Jayne
Identifying optimal remotely-sensed variables for ecosystem monitoring in Colorado Plateau drylands
Water-limited ecosystems often recover slowly following anthropogenic or natural disturbance. Multitemporal remote sensing can be used to monitor ecosystem recovery after disturbance; however, dryland vegetation cover can be challenging to accurately measure due to sparse cover and spectral confusion between soils and non-photosynthetic vegetation...Poitras, Travis; Villarreal, Miguel; Waller, Eric K.; Nauman, Travis; Miller, Mark E.; Duniway, Michael C.
Functional group, biomass, and climate change effects on ecological drought in semiarid grasslands
Water relations in plant communities are influenced both by contrasting functional groups (grasses, shrubs) and by climate change via complex effects on interception, uptake and transpiration. We modelled the effects of functional group replacement and biomass increase, both of which can be outcomes of invasion and vegetation management, and...Wilson, Scott D.; Schlaepfer, Daniel R.; Bradford, John B.; Lauenroth, William K.; Duniway, Michael C.; Hall, Sonia A.; Jamiyansharav, Khishigbayar; Jia, Gensuo; Lkhagva, Ariuntsetseg; Munson, Seth M.; Pyke, David A.; Tietjen, Britta
Future soil moisture and temperature extremes imply expanding suitability for rainfed agriculture in temperate drylands
The distribution of rainfed agriculture is expected to respond to climate change and human population growth. However, conditions that support rainfed agriculture are driven by interactions among climate, including climate extremes, and soil moisture availability that have not been well defined. In the temperate regions that support much of the...Bradford, John B.; Schlaepfer, Daniel R.; Lauenroth, William K.; Yackulic, Charles B.; Duniway, Michael C.; Hall, Sonia A.; Jia, Gensuo; Jamiyansharav, Khishigbayar; Munson, Seth M.; Wilson, Scott D.; Tietjen, Britta
Fine-resolution repeat topographic surveying of dryland landscapes using UAS-based structure-from-motion photogrammetry: Assessing accuracy and precision against traditional ground-based erosion measurements
Structure-from-motion (SfM) photogrammetry from unmanned aerial system (UAS) imagery is an emerging tool for repeat topographic surveying of dryland erosion. These methods are particularly appealing due to the ability to cover large landscapes compared to field methods and at reduced costs and finer spatial resolution compared to airborne laser...Gillian, Jeffrey K.; Karl, Jason W.; Elaksher, Ahmed; Duniway, Michael C.
Enhancing wind erosion monitoring and assessment for U.S. rangelands
On the GroundWind erosion is a major resource concern for rangeland managers because it can impact soil health, ecosystem structure and function, hydrologic processes, agricultural production, and air quality.Despite its significance, little is known about which landscapes are eroding, by how much, and when.The National Wind Erosion Research...Webb, Nicholas P.; Van Zee, Justin W.; Karl, Jason W.; Herrick, Jeffrey E.; Courtright, Ericha M.; Billings, Benjamin J.; Boyd, Robert C.; Chappell, Adrian; Duniway, Michael C.; Derner, Justin D.; Hand, Jenny L.; Kachergis, Emily; McCord, Sarah E.; Newingham, Beth A.; Pierson, Frederick B.; Steiner, Jean L.; Tatarko, John; Tedela, Negussie H.; Toledo, David; Van Pelt, R. Scott
Ecohydrological role of biological soil crusts across a gradient in levels of development
Though biological soil crusts (biocrusts) form abundant covers in arid and semiarid regions, their competing effects on soil hydrologic conditions are rarely accounted for in models. This study presents the modification of a soil water balance model to account for the presence of biocrusts at different levels of development (LOD) and their impact...Whitney, Kristen M.; Vivoni, Enrique R.; Duniway, Michael C.; Bradford, John B.; Reed, Sasha C.; Belnap, Jayne
A new scientific approach can now provide regional assessments of land recovery following oil and gas drilling activities, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
A video put out by CBS discusses some of the ecological issues of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in UT such as nonnative annual grasses, disturbance caused by cattle grazing, and the difficulty of getting native, perennial grasses established. The video focuses on the research of SBSC’s Rebecca Mann and Mike Duniway, who are studying the use connectivity modifiers (ConMods) in...