Impact of military maneuvers on Mojave Desert surfaces: A multiscale analysis
AdvisorMarch, Stuart E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractConcern for environmental management of our natural resources is most often focused on the human impacts upon these resources. Minor stresses on surface materials in sensitive desert landscapes can greatly increase the rate and character of erosion. The National Training Center, Ft. Irwin, located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, California, provides a study area of intense off-road vehicle (ORV) activity spanning a 50-year period. This study documents a case of concentrated ORV activity on sensitive desert environments, and the resulting environmental impacts. Geomorphic surfaces from two study sites within the Ft. Irwin area were mapped from 1:28,400 scale black and white aerial photographs taken in 1947. Surface disruption attributed to military activity was then mapped for the same areas from 1993, 1:12,000, black and white aerial photographs. Several field checks were conducted to verify this mapping. Images created from SPOT panchromatic and Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) multispectral data acquired during the spring of 1987 and 1993 were analyzed to assess both the extent of disrupted surfaces and the surface geomorphology discernable from satellite data. Classified and merged images were then created from these data and demonstrate the capabilities of satellite data to aid in the delineation of disrupted geomorphic surfaces. Correlations were also established between highly disrupted surfaces and soil surface conditions on selected geomorphic surfaces. Disruption maps produced from the air photos indicate that the amount of disrupted surfaces within the study sites grew from a combined total of 1.3 km² in 1947 to 33.4 km² by 1993. A combination of 6 bands of Landsat TM data with a seventh band of SPOT panchromatic data yielded a product that delineated broad geomorphic surfaces that closely correlate with those mapped from the aerial photography. An error matrix between these two products resulted in an overall accuracy of 83.36% and a Kappa Index of Agreement of 77.28%. A 15-class unsupervised classification of the SPOT panchromatic data produced the representation of the extent and levels of disruption present in the study areas that closely matched field observations. Field sampling of soil strength and clay/silt percentages on disturbed and undisturbed surfaces reveals that these arid land surfaces react to intense ORV activity by becoming more compact and exhibiting higher percentages of clays and silts.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Geography and Regional Development