The Mojave Desert ecosystem and global change
The mission of our center is to gain a better understanding of the ecological function and structure of the Mojave Desert at all scales, and how the function and structure might be impacted by global climate change. These types of studies are important because approximately 40 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface is arid or semiarid, and more land is undergoing desertification each year. The center is located on the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), which is an ideal location for ecological studies because of the accessibility of large tracts of pristine land that have been protected for at least 60 years. Additionally the NNSS encompasses several plant communities along an elevation gradient as well as Great Basin-Mojave Desert transitional communities.
Two large projects have been conducted at the Nevada Desert Research Center (NDRC). These projects included a FACE (Free-Air CO2 Enrichment)study (Nevada Desert FACE Facility, NDFF), which examined the effects of elevated CO2 on the Mojave Desert ecosystem and a Mojave Global Change study (Mojave Global Change Facility, MGCF) which examined the effects of other predicted climate change factors, namely nitrogen deposition, crust disturbance, and increased summer precipitation.
The NDRC is located on the NNSS near the northern ecotone of the Mojave Desert. NDRC land holdings are being maintained and encompass approximately two square kilometers between 36° 46' 30", 115° 57' 45" and 36° 45' 20", 115° 59' 15". This area is fairly homogeneous on a broad gently sloping, north-facing bajada (i.e., alluvial fan). The vegetation is characterized as a Larrea tridentata, Lycium spp., Ambrosia dumosa plant community. Although no new experiments are currently funded for the NDRC, the plots are being maintained for potential future research.