Ecohydrology and Effects of Disturbance on Desert Alluvial Fans
In recent years, we have focused on studies at the interface of surface hydrology and plant ecophysiology within arid and semi-arid ecosystems. Our objectives are to better understand the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of water resources and their impacts on plant, community and ecosystem processes. In one system (the Hayden Piedmont of Mojave National Preserve) we are investigating vegetation responses to disturbance of natural water flow on desert alluvial fans. Our studies will determine how surface disturbances (e.g., roads construction, vegetation clearing) and potential climate changes (e.g., increased rain intensity) impact water flow through ephemeral washes and small channels, and how such impacts ultimately affect vegetation properties. This work has employed remotely sensed LiDAR data to determine changes in vegetation structure, and experimental manipulations to quantify plant dependence on wash water and how disturbances have impacted the plant-wash relationship. This research is in collaboration with colleagues from the USGS and is supported by the USGS Recoverability and Vulnerability of Desert Ecosystems program.