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NDFF Site Characteristics

Nevada Desert Research Center - Mojave Desert

Currently two large projects are underway at the Nevada Desert Research Center. These projects include the Nevada Desert FACE Facility, and a Mojave Global Change study to examine the effects of other predicted climate change factors, namely nitrogen deposition, crust disturbance, and increased precipitation. In addition to gaining an understanding of the possible responses of the Mojave Desert to global climate change, the current funded research will also provide a better understanding of the Mojave Desert biosphere at molecular, physiological and ecosystem levels, as well as soil dynamics and the inter-relationships among plants, herbivores and insects.

This facility is located on the Nevada Test Site near the northern ecotone of the Mojave Desert. Current land holdings assigned to our facility total two square kilometers between 36° 46' 30", 115° 57' 45" and 36° 45' 20", 115° 59' 15".

This area is a fairly homogeneous area on a broad gently sloping bajada. The vegetation is characterized as a Larrea tridentata, Lycium spp., Ambrosia dumosa plant community.

Climatic Conditions in the Mojave

Hotter than the Great Basin Desert on its northern boundary, the Mojave Desert is the driest region in the United States. Long-term records (Indian Springs, Nevada) averages 2.9 inches (74 mm) of precipitation a year. Temperatures here range from 119°F (48°C) in summer to -2°F (-19°C) in winter. Whether it is blazing or freezing, one can count on the wind blowing. These conditions present significant challenges for plants and animals living in this area. The impact of global change on the organisms precariously perched in this extreme ecosystem is a key area of study at NDFF.

The Nevada Test Site is an ideal location for ecological studies because of the accessibility of large tracts of pristine land that have been protected for at least 50 years, and it encompasses several plant communities along an elevation gradient as well as Great Basin-Mojave Desert transitional communities.