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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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.