Competitive Graduate Student Assistantship Program

Quantifying Thresholds for Shrub Encroachment in the Chihuahuan Desert

Project Leader: Niall Hanan (Plant and Environmental Sciences,

Student: Robert Wojcikiewicz (Plant and Environmental Sciences,

Summary: The research proposed here will build on data already generated from the first year of work on this master’s project, the goal of which is to provide innovative approaches to use satellite, aircraft and UAV (unmanned aircraft vehicle) imagery to improve our understanding of the processes controlling shrub encroachment into semi-arid rangelands of the Northern Chihuahuan Desert and other arid lands of the southwestern USA. In particular, it will quantify how changes in spatial connectivity related to grass cover may trigger threshold-responses in wind and water erosion leading to enhanced rates of shrub encroachment.