Aeolian dust can influence nutrient availability, soil fertility, plant interactions, and water-holding capacity in both source and downwind environments. A network of 85 passive collectors for aeolian sediment spanning numerous plant communities, soil types, and land-use histories covering approximately 4000 square kilometers across southeastern Utah was used to sample horizontal emissions of aeolian sediment. The sample archive dates to 2004 and is currently the largest known record of field-scale dust emissions for the southwestern United States. Sediment flux peaked during the spring months in all plant communities (mean: 38.1 g m−2 d−1), related to higher, sustained wind speeds that begin in the early spring. Dust flux was lowest during the winter period (mean: 5 g m−2 d−1) when surface wind speeds are typically low. Sites dominated by blackbrush and sagebrush shrubs had higher sediment flux (mean: 19.4 g m−2 d−1) compared to grasslands (mean: 11.2 g m−2 d−1), saltbush shrublands (mean: 10.3 g m−2 d−1), and woodlands (mean: 8.1 g m−2 d−1). Contrary to other studies on dust emissions, antecedent precipitation during one, two, and three seasons prior to sample collection did not significantly influence emission rates. Physical site-scale factors controlling dust emissions were complex and varied from one vegetation type to another.
Additional publication details
Spatial and temporal patterns of dust emissions (2004-2012) in semi-arid landscapes, southeastern Utah, USA