Vegetation Canopy Gap Size and Height: Critical Indicators for Wind Erosion Monitoring and Management

TitleVegetation Canopy Gap Size and Height: Critical Indicators for Wind Erosion Monitoring and Management
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsWebb N.P., McCord S.E., Edwards B.L., Herrick J.E., Kachergis E., Okin G., Van Zee J.W.
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
Date PublishedMay 2021
ARIS Log Number380559
Keywordscanopy, dust monitoring, gap size, rangeland health, Vegetation height, wind erosion

Indicators of vegetation cover and structure are widely available for monitoring and managing rangeland wind erosion. Identifying which indicators are most appropriate for managers could improve wind erosion mitigation and restoration efforts. Vegetation cover directly protects the soil surface from erosive winds and reduces wind erosivity by extracting momentum from the air. The portion of the soil surface that is directly protected by vegetation is adequately described by fractional ground cover indicators. However, the aerodynamic sheltering effects of vegetation, which are more important for wind erosion than for water erosion, are not captured by these indicators. As wind erosion is a lateral process, the vertical structure and spatial distribution of vegetation are most important for controlling where, when, and how much wind erosion occurs on rangelands. These controlling factors can be described by indicators of the vegetation canopy gap size distribution and vegetation height, for which data are collected widely in the United States by standardized rangeland monitoring and assessment programs. In this paper we address why canopy gap size distribution and vegetation height are critical indicators of rangeland wind erosion and health. We review wind erosion processes to explain the physical role of these vegetation attributes. We then address the management implications including availability of data on the indicators on rangelands and needs to make the indicators and model estimates of wind erosion more accessible to the range management community.