Shelter Index and a simple wind speed parameter to characterize vegetation control of sand transport threshold and Flu

Friday, 19 December 2014: 9:15 AM
John A Gillies, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV, United States, Joanna M Nield, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO14, United Kingdom, William G Nickling, University of Guelph, Geography, Guelph, ON, Canada and Eden Furtak-Cole, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
Wind erosion and dust emissions occur in many dryland environments from a range of surfaces with different types and amounts of vegetation. Understanding how vegetation modulates these processes remains a research challenge. Here we present results from a study that examines the relationship between an index of shelter (SI=distance from a point to the nearest upwind vegetation/vegetation height) and particle threshold expressed as the ratio of wind speed measured at 0.45 times the mean plant height divided by the wind speed at 17 m when saltation commences, and saltation flux. The results are used to evaluate SI as a parameter to characterize the influence of vegetation on local winds and sediment transport conditions. Wind speed, wind direction, saltation activity and point saltation flux were measured at 35 locations in defined test areas (~13,000 m2) in two vegetation communities: mature streets of mesquite covered nebkhas and incipient nebkhas dominated by low mesquite plants. Measurement positions represent the most open areas, and hence those places most susceptible to wind erosion among the vegetation elements. Shelter index was calculated for each measurement position for each 10° wind direction bin using digital elevation models for each site acquired using terrestrial laser scanning. SI can show the susceptibility to wind erosion at different time scales, i.e., event, seasonal, or annual, but in a supply-limited system it can fail to define actual flux amounts due to a lack of knowledge of the distribution of sediment across the surface of interest with respect to the patterns of SI.