The purpose of this research is to evaluate the effects of human stressors or impacts (non-military as well as military) on biodiversity and related environmental concerns within the Mojave Desert ecoregion of California both at present and in the year 2020. 

This project initiates a regional ecosystem management approach involving investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Research Council, and others. It will provide the military commanders with the tools and techniques necessary to carry out their missions.


Fort Irwin images from 1984 and 1993 showing changes in spectral imaging that can be related to changes in the ecosystem

Technical Approach

The technical approach consists of four phases. First, the development phase will produce the research plan, initiate a spatially-oriented database management and decision support system, and organize a military and non-military stakeholder group to identify key environmental issues and human valuations of the Mojave region. The data assembly phase will then involve field work conducted throughout the Mojave region, including at military installations, with detailed transects collected at Joshua Tree National Park and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. The analysis and assessments phase will consist of determining and modeling habitat relationships for key species and assessing their management strategies as well as conducting landscape analysis to determine the magnitude of change from 1972 to present. Finally, the modeling and products delivery phase will involve modeling, design, and evaluation of future alternative land use scenarios on stressors, biodiversity, and other related environmental issues.


Digital terrain, biodiversity, and remotely sensed information in addition to geological and geomorphic data constituted the input to the development and assessment of scenario models. The habitat and management strategies of the desert tortoise and other key species were derived and correlated to associated species. Multi-date Landsat and SPOT imagery was used to generate data layers showing land use change, landscape pattern, and data visualization products. Existing land use activities and other stressors on habitat and biodiversity were evaluated. Scenario modeling, which shows the probability that patterns of land use will change on a given parcel, was used to extrapolate alternative future scenarios of land use for the Mojave Desert Region. Fifteen example alternative futures were developed through the modeling process. Three of these are: (1) a depiction of regional "trends" that incorporates population projections; (2) a depiction of total "build-out" of existing land use plans and policies; and (3) a scenario maximizing the conservation of biological diversity


With other regional stakeholders, Department of Defense installation managers will be able to evaluate and manage their military training and testing needs in the context of regional ecosystem management.