Nevada Desert Research Center
The Nevada Desert Research Center (NDRC) is located near the northern extent of the east Mojave Desert on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nevada Test Site in southern Nevada. The mission of the center is to gain a better understanding of the Mojave Desert ecosystem structure and function at all scales, and how the function and structure might be impacted by changes in global climate. The two large projects currently underway at the NDRC are the Nevada Desert FACE (Free-Air CO2 Enrichment) Facility, which is examining the effects of elevated CO2, and the Mojave Global Change Facility, which is examining the effects of other predicted climate change factors, namely nitrogen deposition, crust disturbance, and increased precipitation. Both of these efforts are a component of the Nevada Global Change program, which is a collaborative effort among the Desert Research Institute, University of Nevada – Las Vegas and University of Nevada – Reno. Other significant collaborators include the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Dr. R. D. Evans, Washington State University.
Nevada Desert FACE Facility
The FACE (Free-Air CO2 Enrichment) Facility technology allows researchers to enrich the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in large study plots without influencing other environmental factors. The site has been in operation since April 1997 and consists of 9 experimental rings (3 control rings of ambient carbon dioxide and 3 experimental rings at 550µL-1 carbon dioxide plus 3 non-blower control plots). This is the only facility in the world examining the effects of elevated CO2 on an arid ecosystem. The facility is operational 365 days a year, 24 hours a day except when wind speeds or freezing temperatures exceed threshold values.
Mojave Global Change Facility
This facility consists of 96 plots (14 by 14 m) receiving a series of three treatments. These treatments include a summer irrigation treatment (three applications of 25mm water at three-week intervals), two levels of nitrogen fertilization (10 and 40 kg/ha), and crust disturbance. A randomized block design established 8 replicates of 12 treatment combinations including a control. The results from the MGCF will be combined with NDFF research results to make predictions on the overall impact of future climate on the Mojave Desert, which in turn can assist with better land management, restoration, revegetation, and various clean-up efforts.