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THE DYNAMIC INTERACTION OF CLIMATE, VEGETATION, AND DUST EMISSION, MOJAVE DESERT, USA $100.00
Authors:  Frank E. Urban, Richard L. Reynolds and Robert Fulton
Abstract:
Sparsely vegetated drylands are an important source for dust emission, but little is
known in detail about dust generation in response to timing of precipitation and the
consequent effects on soil and vegetation dynamics in these settings. This deficiency is
especially acute at intermediate landscape scale, a few tens of meters to a several hundred
meters. It is essential to consider dust emission at this scale, because it links dust
generation at scales of grains and wind tunnels with regional-scale dust examined using
remotely sensed data from satellites. Three sites of slightly different geomorphic settings
in the vicinity of Soda (dry) Lake were instrumented (in 1999) with meteorological and
sediment transport sensors to measure wind erosion through saltating particle detection
during high winds. Changes in vegetation in close proximity to the instrumented sites
were bi-annually documented through measurements of plant type, cover, and repeat
photographic imagery. A succession of dry and wet years has allowed documentation of
the profound influence of precipitation-driven annual plant growth (both living and
remnant) on variability in dust emission. High levels of precipitation (relative to our
period of record) during late winter/early spring 2001 stimulated heavy localized growth
of annual grasses, shutting down dust emission at the sites within a period of three
months. The year 2002 was very dry with little precipitation or plant growth, yet remnant
dead grasses from the previous year continued to stabilize the surface and suppress dust
emission for about three months. Modest renewal of particle saltation occurred in late
2002. During early spring 2003, all of 2004, and winter/spring 2005, heavy precipitation
stimulated excessive localized plant growth including an extraordinary bloom of an
invasive mustard species at one site and mediterranean grass at another. The three-year succession of strong annual vegetation growth dramatically suppressed particle saltation
and associated local dust emission. In 2006 and through most of 2007, relatively low
precipitation, less vigorous vegetation growth, and gradual disintegration of remnant
vegetation cover initiated a strong resurgence of particle saltation by spring 2007. This
resurgence came to an end when several heavy precipitation events in the fall of 2007
stimulated vegetation growth that shut down dust emission within a period of about two
months. The stable, non-emissive conditions, maintained by stands of remnant vegetation
continued through summer 2008. The nine-year record at these sites spans multiple
cycles of wet and dry conditions, thus allowing a detailed analysis of the lags and
mediating influence that precipitation driven annual plant growth and decay exerts on
dust emission in sparsely vegetated drylands. 


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