Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are finding evidence of a much wetter past in the deserts of the American Southwest using a most unlikely source—wetlands. Wetlands form in arid environments where water tables approach or breach the ground surface. Often thought of as stagnant and unchanging, new evidence suggests that springs and wetlands responded dynamically to past episodes of abrupt climate change. Multiple cycles of deposition, erosion, and soil formation show that wetlands in the southwestern United States expanded and contracted many times during the past 35,000 years or so, before disappearing altogether as the last glacial period came to a close. USGS scientists are now studying the deposits to determine how closely conditions in the desert were tied to regional and global climate patterns in the past, and what it might mean for the fragile ecosystems in light of anticipated climate change in the future.
Pigati, J.S., Springer, K.B., and Manker, C.R., 2015, Desert wetlands—Archives of a wetter past: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2015–3077, 2 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20153077.
ISSN: 2327-6932 (online)
ISSN: 2327-6916 (print)
Table of Contents
- Wetlands in the Geologic Record
- Ecosystem Response to Climate Change in the Las Vegas Valley
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Title||Desert wetlands—Archives of a wetter past|
|Series title||Fact Sheet|
|Publisher||U.S. Geological Survey|
|Publisher location||Reston, VA|
|Contributing office(s)||Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center|
|Online Only (Y/N)||N|
|Additional Online Files (Y/N)||N|