In 1980 the National Science Foundation established a network of sites across the US for long term study of ecological processes over long time periods and across large spaces. One of the original sites of this network of now 26 locations was in the Jornada Basin. Five of the resulting lessons learned from over 25 years of study are:
- TIPPING POINTS Jornada scientists discovered the mechanisms by which grasslands, shrublands, and other ecosystems cross ‘tipping points,’ or thresholds in which dramatic and rapid changes can occur. A better understanding of these thresholds is paramount to management and protection of grasslands and other ecosystems. Read more
- HETEROGENEITY AND NONEQUILIBRIUM DYNAMICS Jornada scientists discovered that variability in ecosystem responses in both time and space is more characteristic of drylandsthan average conditions. New research approaches provide insights into old problems, including inconsistent responses through time, persistent and variable patterns in space, and emergentbehavior across scales. Read more
- ACCESSIBLE ECOLOGY Jornada scientists have created tools and programs to make scientific results readily available to a variety of stakeholders, including land managers, scientists and teachers. Outputs include web-based access to scientific data, methods to monitor changes in soils and vegetation around the world, and training for K-12 students and teachers. Read more
- EXPANDING DESERTS Desertification is a global problem that reduces plant productivity, biodiversity, air and soil quality, and water availability. JORNADA scientists developed an integrated understanding of consequences of desertification in arid ecosystems, including loss of ecosystem services. Read more
- ABILITY TO RESTORE Jornada studies initiated in the early 1900s reveal how the change from productive, diverse perennial grasses to shrublands on degraded soils is difficult, but not impossible, to reverse. With over 1.25 billion people living in dryland areas, it is critical to understand the restoration potential of degraded systems. Read more
The Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research program, in collaboration with the USDA ARS Jornada Experimental Range, studies the causes and consequences of desertification: the broad scale expansion of woody plants into grasslands that results in more "desert like" conditions. We are interested in spatial and temporal variation in desertification dynamics, and how historic legacies, the geomorphic template, transport vectors (wind, water, animals), and environmental drivers (climate, land use, disturbance) interact with the patch structure of the vegetation to determine past, present, and future ecosystem dynamics across scales.
Our study site is located in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, approximately 25 km northeast of Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA (+32.5 N, -106.8 W, elevation 1188 m). Annual precipitation is 24 cm and maximum temperatures average 13 C in January and 36 C in June. Our study site includes the 78,000 ha Jornada Experimental Range operated by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and the 22,000 ha Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center (CDRRC) operated by New Mexico State University. The Jornada Basin LTER project was established in 1982, and is administered by New Mexico State University. This site is a member of the LTER Network, one of more than 25 long term sites funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.