Measuring Impacts of Solar Development on Mojave Desert Plants

Energy Vulture

by Emil Morhardt

The massive development of wind and solar generating facilities in California’s Mojave Desert puts California way out in front of the rest of the US in generation of renewable electricity, but at the same time the development drastically alters the desert ecosystem. Installation of photovoltaic arrays seems to require grading the land flat, removing all existing vegetation, and since there will be nothing to eat, all of the animals as well. To those who haven’t travelled this wild desert during a verdant spring—something that happens only every few years—it might seem barren. But I’ve camped out in the middle of it many times in the spring when it is lush, covered with desert flowers, and alive with birds and other animals; to me it is the epitome of virgin wilderness. (My wife and I even wrote a book about it and took a lot of plant pictures…see reference…

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Fueling conservation and restoration – a figure of connectivity

 

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How do we use the multiple tools of conservation and restoration — in both basic and applied science arenas, and related non-science disciplines — to foster healthy natural ecosystems?  I developed this diagram to express the connections that I see between many levels.

Careful planning of human objectives is a foundation for the maintenance of healthy natural ecosystems, processes, and resources through the actions of restoration and conservation science. These actions require both natural history and theoretical research, and active feedback and decision-making processes, such as adaptive management.  Education, information science, interdisciplinary collaboration, and program development feed into the central processes, fueling efficient and effective restoration and conservation. There are no uni-directional arrows; the network grows stronger with improved connectivity between all levels of organization.

Rare Plant Fact Sheets for Ash Meadows

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As part of the Rare Plant Monitoring Protocol for Adaptive Management that we are developing for Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Karen Tanner and I have created these Rare Plant Fact Sheets and Rare Plant Observation Record Forms so that citizen scientists and staff alike can explore rare plants on the refuge, find populations, report observations and new localities.

Let’s us know what you see out there on the refuge! When you see them in a new or interesting place, we would greatly appreciate it if you would fill out and submit an Ash Meadows Rare Plant Observation Records (prints as 2 half sheets). If you head out to Ash Meadows, you can print out a few of these and the Rare Plant Fact Sheets to have in your vehicle or backpack. Or add them as pdfs to your mobile device!  If you see rare plants in a new location (not on the maps) or in a location that is directly or indirectly impacted (in a possible or negative way) by management actions make an observation by filling out ALL of the fields on the form.

You can submit your observations easily in one of two ways, either scan it and email it to me, or simply take a photograph of it (and the plant!), check that its legible, and send it to me at kmoore(at)ucdavis.edu, or via text. Simple as can be!
We’re hoping that you will each by our eyes on the landscape, and assist us in identifying new subpopulations and responses to the amazing restoration work that is ongoing at the refuge. We also greatly appreciate the reports and information that staff have already contributed!

Desert-centric Fremontia issues are here!

As guest Managing Editor I have assembled and edited the first two 2014 issues of Fremontia, Journal of the California Native Plant Society, to bring visibility to desert plants, ecosystems, research and regional management challenges. The first issue is out!  Here is my Editorial. Please email me if you would like PDF versions of articles or to borrow one of my gorgeous photo-laden paper copies. Electronic distribution will follow later in 2014.  The issue for May 2014 is in press and will focus on threats to desert plants and ecosystems. I’m very proud of these issues and grateful to the wonderful authors, reviewers, and editors who contributed!

The January issue features an article that I wrote with Jim André entitled “Rare plant diversity in the California deserts priorities for research and conservation.” The May issue has an article by Karen Tanner, myself and Bruce Pavlik on our study on the effects of shade and water regime change on desert annual communities.

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