Ecology of Desert Systems

Ecology of Desert Systems

2nd Edition - August 20, 2019

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  • Authors: Walter Whitford, Benjamin Duval
  • eBook ISBN: 9780081026557
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128150559

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Nearly one-third of the land area on our planet is classified as arid or desert. Therefore, an understanding of the dynamics of such arid ecosystems is essential to managing those systems in a way that sustains human populations. This second edition of Ecology of Desert Systems provides a clear, extensive guide to the complex interactions involved in these areas. This book details the relationships between abiotic and biotic environments of desert ecosystems, demonstrating to readers how these interactions drive ecological processes. These include plant growth and animal reproductive success, the spatial and temporal distribution of vegetation and animals, and the influence of invasive species and anthropogenic climate change specific to arid systems. Drawing on the extensive experience of its expert authors, Ecology of Desert Systems is an essential guide to arid ecosystems for students looking for an overview of the field, researchers keen to learn how their work fits in to the overall picture, and those involved with environmental management of desert areas.

Key Features

  • Highlights the complexity of global desert systems in a clear, concise way
  • Reviews the most current issues facing researchers in the field, including the spread of invasive species due to globalized trade, the impact of industrial mining, and climate change
  • Updated and extended to include information on invasive species management, industrial mining impacts, and the current and future role of climate change in desert systems


Researchers (in both academia and industry) dealing with arid land environments and arid ecosystems around the world, upper undergrad and postgrad students, environmental planners and managers, climate change scientists

Table of Contents

  • 1. Conceptual Framework, Paradigms, and Models
    2. Landforms, Geomorphology, and Vegetation
    3. Characterization of Desert Climates
    4. Wind and Water Processes
    5. Patch—Mosiac Dynamics
    6. Adaptations
    7. Primary Production
    8. Consumers and Their Effects
    9. Decomposition and Nutrient Cycling
    10. Nonnative, Exotic, or Alien Species
    11. Anthropogenic Climate Change in Deserts
    12. Desertification
    13. Rehabilitation of Degraded Landscapes
    14. Monitoring and Assessment
    15. The Human Footprint (Roads; Urbanization; Energy Developments)

Product details

  • No. of pages: 473
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2019
  • Published: August 20, 2019
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • eBook ISBN: 9780081026557
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128150559

About the Authors

Walter Whitford

Professor Walter G. Whitford received his PhD from the University of Rhode Island in Physiolgical-Ecology. He spent the next fifty years working in the Chihuahuan Desert as a faculty member in Biology at New Mexico State University (NMSU) where he was principal investigator in the Desert Biome Program which was part of the International Biological Program. His research focused on field experiments and studies of termites and seed harvesting ants. That program stimulated his commitment to the importance of soil in arid ecosystems and the organisms that are involved in nutrient cycling. He also served as the first principal investigator for the Jornada Long Term Ecological Research Program. As principal investigator, he published more than 150 papers in peer reviewed journals dealing with most aspects of desert ecology. In 1993, he left the university to work as a senior research ecologist with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency with a focus on monitoring and assessing the health of arid ecosystems. After retiring from the EPA he produced the first edition of Ecology of Desert Systems and continued to teach and do research in the Chihuahuan Desert. While a professor, he did research in Israel and Australia, evaluated arid lands research programs in South Africa, and organized a symposium on the Atacama and long-term ecological research in Chile. Before embarking on the 2nd edition of Ecology of Desert Systems, he was author or co-author of more than 300 peer-reviewed publications.

Affiliations and Expertise

USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, USA

Benjamin Duval

Benjamin D. Duval is Assistant Professor of biology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. His research focuses on soil-atmosphere interactions in the context of arid land biogeochemical cycles, and arid land agro-ecology. He specifically investigates invasive plant influence on soil-microbial interactions in southwestern US riparian systems, water use impacts on greenhouse gas flux in arid agro-ecosystems, and the climate footprint of encroaching shrubs in the Chihuahuan Desert. Ben is passionate about training students to work on projects related to desert soil carbon cycling, Rio Grande riparian zone native plant restoration and improving predictive metrics of plant water and nutrient stress via remote sensing. Ben completed his PhD at Northern Arizona University in 2010, with a dissertation on the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on trace metal cycling and nitrogen fixation. Dr. Duval holds a Master’s degree from New Mexico State, where he developed a sincere love of the Chihuahuan Desert through his many hours in the field with Dr. Whitford. His research in New Mexico with Dr. Whitford included soil disturbance by mammals and interactions between desert shrubs and insects. He is an alumnus of The College of Wooster (Biology, class of 2001). His wife Mikell and son (Gustav Falcon) are willing participants in his sojourns into the northern Chihuahuan Desert around Socorro, New Mexico. One of Ben’s long-term goals is to instill in his students (and son) to respect desert systems with the same passion that Dr. Walter G. Whitford graciously passed to him.

Affiliations and Expertise

Assistant Professor, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, USA

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