Desert Ecosystem Research

This research focused on plant-soil interactions that were linked to desertification, the loss of arid land productivity and biodiversity in response to climate change and disturbances such as overgrazing. My research in southern California examined approaches for the ecological restoration of sites disturbed by mining and highway construction.

Much of this research was done with Dave Bainbridge while we were at UC Riverside and San Diego State University. His book “A Guide for Desert and Drylands Restoration,” published in 2007, shows the power of using ecological understanding to restore the productivity of water-limited ecosystems

As a former member of the Jornada Basin LTER project on desertification, I studied desertification of southwestern grasslands and their conversion to shrublands, with a focus on changes in soil fertility and the ecology of the encroaching shrubs, creosote bush and mesquite. The Jornada group produced the following widely cited model of desertification that examined changes in the spatial distribution of soil resources as a primary driver of desertification:

W. H. Schlesinger et al. 1990, “Biological feedbacks in global desertification,” Science 247:1043.