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University of Arizona awarded $2.95 million to study monsoon ecology

on the magnitude and extent of summer monsoon storms and thus indirectly influence regional ecological cycles on land in the southwestern U.S."

Funding for the grant, called Processes and Patterns in the North American Monsoon Macrosystem, is for five years and comes with $2.95 million to the UA, $402,000 to New Mexico State University and $281,000 to Utah State University.

Co-investigators from the UA include Chris Castro, Francina Dominguez, Xubin Zeng, Guo Yue Niu, Tom Swetnam, Steve Leavitt, Connie Woodhouse and Julio Betancourt.

The investigation will consist of advanced computer modeling approaches combining weather forecasting and biological processes associated with the vegetation on the surface to determine how the highly variable rains associated with the monsoon system determine the timing and spatial spread of plants in the monsoon region.

Studies will include explicit investigations on how these rains control the spread of invasive grasses in the southwestern U.S., including cheat grass and buffelgrass, and how the spread of these invasive grasses is likely to influence weather patterns associated with seasonal propagation of the monsoon system through changes in the reflection of solar energy at the surface and evaporation of water into the atmosphere.

In a second line of research, extensive tree-ring analyses will be conducted across the southwestern U.S. to discern historical patterns in the magnitude and distribution of the monsoon system and to validate the predictions of the models using historical data.

The studies also will explore the connectivity between lower elevation arid grasslands and higher elevation forests with regard to the regional fire cycle.

Bringing an annually recurring, second rainy season in addition to winter rains, the monsoon makes the Sonoran Desert stand out from other deserts across the world by supporting an unparalleled diversity of fauna and flora.

Contact: Daniel Stolte
University of Arizona

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