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Location of the Mojave Desert ecosystem (boundary shown in yellow) and the RVDE study area (boundary shown in orange).

The objectives of the USGS Recoverability and Vulnerability of Desert Ecosystems (RVDE) project are to conduct basic scientific research on ecological processes within the Mojave Desert ecosystem and to use this knowledge to provide land managers with scientific understanding and tools needed to conserve and restore threatened desert landscapes.

Small desert tortoise at Ft. Irwin National Training Center, on the south side of the Tiefort Mountains. Photo by David Miller, USGS.

The Mojave Desert covers 125,000 square kilometers of southern Nevada, western Arizona, southwestern Utah, and southeastern California. It is home to over 1 million people, including the nation's fastest growing city, Las Vegas, and is within a day’s drive of 40 million people. Many endangered plants and animals live within the Mojave ecosystem as well. It contains four National Park units, six major military training bases, and significant tracts of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Stewards of our public lands are faced with the need to make sound decisions on land use that will allow for economic, recreational, and military use, while still keeping the desert ecosystem healthy and ensuring the survival of threatened species.

USGS scientists are taking an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the physical and biological processes that influence the vulnerability of the desert ecosystem to disturbance and its ability to recover. They are studying historical information, conducting experimental studies on physical and biological processes, and mapping and modeling the existing landscape. These data can be synthesized into maps and predictive models that show how ecosystem components respond to imposed stress, providing valuable tools for desert land managers. Such tools will help land managers make decisions that sustain the desert even as economic, recreation, and military uses continue.

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Mojave Desert Managers

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