Vegetation shifts can outweigh climate change in desert rangelands
Researchers from ASU, the University of California, Riverside, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture report a surprising discovery about the impact of a change in vegetation on desert range lands in the Southwest. It has been thought that when woody shrubs replace grasses on the desert terrain, it results in less water entering streams and groundwater aquifers. A new study finds encroachment of shrubs on sloping landscape can instead increase the amount of water going into groundwater storage. One of the researchers, Enrique Vivoni, a professor in the Fulton Schools and ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, says the study verifies that land topography plays a big role in redistributing available water in deserts.