Subsurface soil textural control of aboveground productivity in the US Desert Southwest

Christopher Shepard, Marcel G. Schaap, Michael A. Crimmins, Willem J.D. Van Leeuwen, Craig Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The drylands of the US Desert Southwest (SW) are dependent on precipitation stored as soil moisture for aboveground productivity. Availability of soil moisture in dryland systems is a function of climate and soil physical properties; however, we lack accurate understanding of how soil physical properties modulate regional patterns of aboveground productivity responses to climate forcing in the SW. We used established regional soil, vegetation, and climate datasets to quantify differences in vegetation productivity attributable to soil texture and climate forcing. Subsurface soil texture accounted for significant variation in aboveground productivity in the winter and fore-summer months, but not during the summer monsoon. Subsurface soil texture differences were more important in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, which receive significant winter precipitation. Subsurface soil texture is a significant determinant in modulating aboveground productivity, linked to winter precipitation storage as soil moisture, suggesting that drying winters may lead to increased dryland ecosystem stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-54
Number of pages11
JournalGeoderma Regional
StatePublished - Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Kyle Hartfield for providing the NDVI data for this study and support from the Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station ARZT-1367190-H21-155 and Teaching Assistantship support to C. Shepard from the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


  • Aridisols
  • Dryland ecosystem
  • Soil moisture
  • US Southwest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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