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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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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My workshop on demographic analysis in R

Here’s a link to notes and R code from a workshop that I gave for the Davis R Users Group in 2013. This project has come a long way since the talk!  I now have two manuscripts in preparation on the population demography of the rare desert plant Penstemon albomarginatus (below) where I develop these analysis further. If you are interested I would be happy to share an update or have a conversation on parameterizing rare plant models.

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