Desert soils are characterized by unique spatial and vertical distribution of properties (e.g. texture, soluble salts, organic matter, surface cover) that are critical ecosystem processes. Distribution of these properties directly impacts surface stability and controls plant growth. Desert soil cover is complex consisting of a combination of desert pavement or gravel, inorganic and/or biologic soil crusts, and widely spaced desert shrubs. Natural growth and establishment of desert plants are largely limited by the availability of soil moisture. Ongoing studies in the Mojave and Sonoran Desert strongly indicate that overall characteristics of the soil, especially soil texture and structure, directly control the response of desert plants by controlling the flux of available soil water (McAuliffe and McDonald, 1995; Hamerlynck et al., 2000, 2002; McDonald, 2002; McDonald and Caldwell, 2003a, 2003b; Shafer et al., in press). The Soil Characterization Laboratory has the responsibility of measuring and reporting the data necessary for these on-going DRI projects.
The following lists a sample of the projects that the Soil Characterization Laboratory has been involved with.