As part of a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) monitoring plan to evaluate the environmental impact of off-highway vehicle (OHV) use on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in California, this report presents results of geologic studies in the Dove Spring OHV Open Area. This study produced baseline data, which when combined with historic and current patterns of land use, forms the basis for vegetation and wildlife monitoring designed to address the following questions:
1. Is the density and length of OHV routes increasing?
2. Are there cumulative effects of past and current OHV use associated with changes in the environmental integrity of soils, plants, and wildlife?
3. Is the spread of invasive species associated with levels of OHV use?
4. Is there a threshold of OHV impact that might be translated to management action by the BLM?
The monitoring studies will be used to collect baseline environmental information to determine levels of environmental impact of OHV use. This approach will use a low-impact area as a proxy for pre-impact conditions (substituting space for time) to determine thresholds of OHV impacts beyond which environmental integrity is affected. Indicators of environmental integrity will emphasize factors that are fundamental to ecosystem structure and function and likely to be sensitive to OHV impacts.
Surficial geology is studied because material properties such as texture and chemistry strongly control soil moisture and nutrient availability and therefore affect plant growth and distribution. An understanding of surficial geology can be used to predict and extrapolate soil properties and improve understanding of vegetation assemblages and their distribution. In the present study, vegetation associations may be examined as a function of surficial geology as well as other environmental variables such as slope, aspect, NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service) soil classification, elevation, and land-use history. Ground measurements of vegetation, biological soil crusts, compaction, and other information may be correlated with land use to identify possible ecological thresholds in OHV use that require monitoring.
Surficial geology is relevant for several other studies of OHV impact, such as soil compaction, dust emissions, and acceleration of erosion. Compaction, reduced infiltration, and accelerated erosion have been documented in Dove Spring Canyon because of OHV use (Snyder and others, 1976) and elsewhere in the Mojave Desert (e.g., Webb, 1983; Langdon, 2000). A surficial geologic map enables the use of geomorphic process models, which when combined with measured soil properties, such as texture, nutrient chemistry, and bulk density, allows spatial extrapolation of the properties. Maps can be produced that predict compaction susceptibility, moisture conditions, dust emissions, flood hazards, and erodibility, among other applications.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary Surficial Geology of the Dove Spring Off-Highway Vehicle Open Area, Mojave Desert, California
Geological Survey (U.S.)
Western Earth Surface Processes
Documentation Package; Digital Database Package; Plot File Package (Map 46 x 34 inches)