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RESEARCH AREA

Desert Ecosystem Restoration and Maintenance

Photo: A human created wetland in the delta of the Colorado River, Mexico

Goals:
To restore critical desert habitats so they support higher ecosystem functions

Overview:
Critical habitats include wetlands, riparian corridors and natural desert ecosystems

Research Projects:
Conservation of the lower Colorado River; restoration of abandoned farmland; revegetation of abandoned mine sites.



RESTORATION OF DISTURBED LANDS

The desert is a fragile ecosystem. These projects attempt to return human-impacted soils and landscapes to native conditions. Phyto- (plant) remediation (remedy) is the use of plants to remove or stabilize soil contaminants. We emphasize the use of native vegetation to remediate a wide variety of chemicals in the environment.

Some of the projects are listed below:

  • NAWCA: National Association for Wetlands Conservation (USFWS) has sponsored revegetation in mesquite bosques, cottonwood groves, and wetlands of the Colorado River.
  • Phragmites: Ecophysiological experiments to discover why an introduced genotype of common reed is spreading through the east coast salt marshes (USFWS, USGS).
  • Redhawk Power Plant: Revegetation of abandoned farm land.
  • Monument Valley & Tuba City revegetation projects: these use saltbush plants to remove nitrates from contaminated soil at former uranium mill sites on Navajo land (DOE)
  • Stabilizing mine tailings on the San Pedro River with Big Sacaton Grass (BLM)
  • Twentynine Palms Water District: Saltbush plants used to absorb effluent from a flouride removal treatment plant.

Revegetation along the Colorado River
Photo: Regeneration of native trees on the Lower Colorado River through the release of pulse floods.

 

Photo: A mine site abandoned over 100 years ago on the San Pedro River, AZ.



MONITORING OF SEMI-ARID AND ARID LANDSCAPE CHANGE USING REMOTE SENSING


Remote sensing studies detect changes in the Earth’s surface using satellites, aerial photographs and other non-contact forms of data collection. We specialize in monitoring the human effect on
the Sonoran Desert.

Locations we have monitored include:

  • Colorado River Delta
  • EvapoTranspiration Research
  • Andrade Mesa Wetlands of the
  • All American Canal
  • Natural Wells (Pozos)
  • Estuaries of Baja and Sonora, Mexico
  • Buffel Grass Studies
Remote Sensing
Photo: Buffel Grass pastures in Mexico. This plant was introduced to increase range productivity but has invaded natural habitats.

 

Photo: Regenerated native trees on the Lower Colorado River

Wetlands
Photo: A man made wetland in Mexico.

 

Buffel Grass

Photo: Buffel grass, an exotic African range grass introduced to the Sonoran desert.

Estuaries in Mexico


Photo: Estuary destruction in the Gulf of California.


FINAL MAP PRODUCTS

A GIS organizes spatially-distributed data into maps, charts and projections that reveal relationships among interacting factors. We have created GIS data-bases to aid in conservation and restoration projects. The photos show examples of mapping projects for environmental restoration.

Some of the locations we have mapped include:

  • Topock Marsh on the Colorado River
  • Colorado River Delta
  • Limitrophe
  • Riparian Reach
  • Saltcedar Zone
  • Cienega de Santa Clara
  • Estuaries of Baja and Sonora, Mexico
  • Montague Island Saltgrass
  • Ironwood Forest National Monument
Wetland Locator Map

Colorado River Delta

GIS layers near Morelos Dam


 

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The University of Arizona Environmental Research Laboratory
2601 E. Airport Drive Tucson, Arizona 85756 (520) 626-3322