Recent seasonal variations in arid landscape cover and aeolian sand mobility, Navajo Nation, southwestern U.S.

By: , and 
Edited by: Liviu GiosanDorian Q. FullerKathleen NicollRowan K. Flad, and Peter D. Clift

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Abstract

The socioeconomic impacts of climate change pose problems not only in devel- oping countries but also to residents of arid lands in the United States among marginalized societies with limited economic means. In the Navajo Nation, warming temperatures and recent drought have increased aeolian sediment mobility such that large, migrating sand dunes affect grazing lands, housing, and road access. Dust derived from this region also affects albedo and longevity of the Rocky Mountains snowpack, located downwind. We present initial results from a study that monitors sand transport and vegetation within a 0.2 km2 site in the Navajo lands, measuring the effects of drought on landscape stability since 2009. Sand mobility decreased substantially as 1 year with near-normal monsoon rainfall (2010) somewhat abated a decade-long drought, temporarily doubling vegetation cover. Vegetation that grew during 2010, with adequate rain, died off rapidly during dry conditions in 2011. Short-term increases in rainfall that promote annual, but not perennial, plant growth will not improve landscape stability in the long term. Climate projections suggest that a warmer, drier climate and potentially enhanced sediment supply from ephem- eral washes will further increase aeolian sand transport and dune activity, worsening the present challenges to people living in this region. Connections among climate, vegetation, and aeolian sediment erodibility in this region are highly relevant to other areas of the world with similar environmental problems.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Recent seasonal variations in arid landscape cover and aeolian sand mobility, Navajo Nation, southwestern U.S.
DOI 10.1029/2012GM001214
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 10 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Climates, Landscapes, and Civilizations
First page 51
Last page 60
Country United States
State Arizona
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N