Often as a result of large-scale military maneuvers in the past, many soils in the Mojave Desert are highly vulnerable to soil compaction, particularly when wet. Previous studies indicate that natural recovery of severely compacted desert soils is extremely slow, and some researchers have suggested that subsurface compaction may not recover. Poorly sorted soils, particularly those with a loamy sand texture, are most vulnerable to soil compaction, and these soils are the most common in alluvial fans of the Mojave Desert. Recovery of compacted soil is expected to vary as a function of precipitation amounts, wetting-and-drying cycles, freeze-thaw cycles, and bioturbation, particularly root growth. Compaction recovery, as estimated using penetration depth and bulk density, was measured at 19 sites with 32 site-time combinations, including the former World War II Army sites of Camps Ibis, Granite, Iron Mountain, Clipper, and Essex. Although compaction at these sites was caused by a wide variety of forces, ranging from human trampling to tank traffic, the data do not allow segregation of differences in recovery rates for different compaction forces. The recovery rate appears to be logarithmic, with the highest rate of change occurring in the first few decades following abandonment. Some higher-elevation sites have completely recovered from soil compaction after 70 years. Using a linear model of recovery, the full recovery time ranges from 92 to 100 years; using a logarithmic model, which asymptotically approaches full recovery, the time required for 85% recovery ranges from 105-124 years.
Additional publication details
Recovery of severely compacted soils in the Mojave Desert, California, USA