Soil-geomorphic significance of land surface characteristics in an arid mountain range, Mojave Desert, USA

By: , and 



Mountains comprise an extensive and visually prominent portion of the landscape in the Mojave Desert, California. Landform surface properties influence the role these mountains have in geomorphic processes such as dust flux and surface hydrology across the region. The primary goal of this study was to describe and quantify land surface properties of arid-mountain landforms as a step toward unraveling the role these properties have in soil-geomorphic processes. As part of a larger soil-geomorphic study, four major landform types were identified within the southern Fry Mountains in the southwestern Mojave Desert on the basis of topography and landscape position: mountaintop, mountainflank, mountainflat (intra-range low-relief surface), and mountainbase. A suite of rock, vegetation, and morphometric land surface characteristic variables was measured at each of 65 locations across the study area, which included an associated piedmont and playa. Our findings show that despite the variation within types, landforms have distinct land surface properties that likely control soil-geomorphic processes. We hypothesize that surface expression influences a feedback process at this site where water transports sediment to low lying areas on the landscape and wind carries dust and soluble salts to the mountains where they are washed between rocks, incorporated into the soil, and retained as relatively long-term storage. Recent land-based video and satellite photographs of the dust cloud emanating from the Sierra Cucapá Mountains in response to the 7.2-magnitude earthquake near Mexicali, Mexico, support the hypothesis that these landforms are massive repositories of dust.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Soil-geomorphic significance of land surface characteristics in an arid mountain range, Mojave Desert, USA
Series title Catena
DOI 10.1016/j.catena.2011.07.011
Volume 87
Issue 3
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Hazards Program, Earthquake Science Center
Description 13 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Catena
First page 408
Last page 420
Country United States
Other Geospatial Mojave Desert
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