1. Introduction: Shrub-steppe lands (L.E. Rogers, W.H. Rickard). 2. Climate of the Hanford site (W.H. Rickard). Meteorological data base. Climate patterns at the Hanford site. 3. Soils: Carbon and mineral cycling processes (R.E. Wildung, T.R. Garland). Occurrence and distribution of soils. Physiochemical properties. Carbon cycling: Influence of environmental factors. Relationships of carbon cycling to mineral weathering and mobilization. 4. Water Balance (G.W. Gee et al). General principles applicable to arid sites. Microclimatology of the ALE reserve: Data bases. Model simulations. Conclusions. 5. Springs and streams (C.E. Cushing, B.E. Vaughan). Physical and chemical characterization. Biological investigations. Radionuclides as indicators of aquatic ecosystem processes. Summary. 6. Plant communities: Characteristics and responses (W.H. Rickard, B.E. Vaughan). Characteristics of contrasting shrub-steppe plant communities. Responses of plants and plant communities to disturbances. Radionuclides as indicators of biological fate and transport of materials. Summary. 7. Terrestrial animal habitats and population responses (L.E. Rogers et al). Mammals and reptiles. Birds. Insects and related arthropods. Animals as indicators of radionuclide and chemical contamination. 8. Theoretical perspective on ecosystem disturbance and recovery (P.A. Beedlow et al). Concepts of response and recovery. Characterization of disturbance and stress in the shrub-steppe ecosystem. Future research needs. Epilog (L.E. Rogers, W.H. Rickard).