Texas Tech University

International Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Land Studies

The International Center for Arid and Semiarid Land Studies (ICASALS) at Texas Tech University was created in 1966 to promote the university's special mission of the interdisciplinary study of arid and semiarid environments and the human relationship to these environments from an international perspective. The purpose of ICASALS is to stimulate, coordinate and implement teaching, research, and public service activities concerning all aspects of the world's arid and semiarid regions, their people and their problems.

News of Interest

Tropical Ecology

Quantification of greenhouse gas emissions from managed biofuel plantations in a semi-arid landscape of Southern India

This study quantifies greenhouse gas emissions from managed 9-year-old plantations of species currently considered of biofuel potential (Jatropha curcas L. and Pongamia pinnata L.). Analyses were based on data obtained for all seasons in three consecutive years (2012–2013, 2013–2014 and 2014–2015) using manually-operated closed chamber method. CH4, N2O and CO2 were analyzed by using Varian 450-GC based on Gas Chromotography. Results indicate that Jatropha curcas has higher GHG emissions than Pongamia pinnata. The highest emissions for Jatropha curcas occur during the rainy season, whereas for Pongamia pinnata it occurs during winter. Findings suggest that soil moisture and temperature being the most influencing factors for CO2 fluxes from soil. The study concludes that these plantations influence soil-atmosphere GHG exchanges and can act as a good source of mitigation of greenhouse gases.

Global Ecology and Conservation

Adaptive traits of three dominant desert-steppe species under grazing-related degradation: Morphology, structure, and function 

Understanding the adaptative behaviors of dominant desert-steppe species under varying levels of grazing-related environmental degradation is an important step in elucidating the survival strategies and environmental response mechanisms of desert plants. This study investigates the adaptative traits of three dominant plant species (Stipa breviflora, Cleistogenes squarrosa, and Convolvulus ammannii) from the perspectives of plant morphology, leaf structure, and photosynthesis in the Xilamuren desert steppe in Northwest China. The results suggest that the morphological, structural, and functional adjustments of desert plants were related to the development of drought-resistance mechanisms through water-use strategies, including increased water absorption and water-use efficiency and decreased water consumption. These findings enrich the existing knowledge of the environmental adaptation mechanisms of dominant plants in desert steppes, providing a scientific basis for the restoration of desert steppe ecologies and the formulation of suitable grazing policies. 

Journal of Arid Environments

Traditional puesteros' perceptions of biodiversity in semi-arid Southern Mendoza, Argentina 

This study evaluates the social practices and ethnotaxonomic knowledge of traditional people living in the semi-arid south of Mendoza, Argentina (locally called puesteros) in order to understand their adaptations and resilience strategies and to clarify the fundamental link between past and present traditional land use practices and cultural identity. The puesteros study details the dynamics that link inhabitants and the biophysical environment, partly because this community is threatened with exile by a large hydroelectric project. The findings show knowledge of 39 plant species used as construction, firewood, medicine, and toxins. Also, the community shows a close attachment to this place, past and present, in terms of identity, cultural practices, and local knowledge of biodiversity and geographic features. Based on the interaction between puesteros and the landscape, the place and interactions can be referred as an ecocultural keystone landscape that deserves particular consideration in the face of large construction projects.

The ISME Journal

Chemosynthetic and photosynthetic bacteria contribute differentially to primary production across a steep desert aridity gradient 

Desert soils harbor diverse communities of aerobic bacteria despite lacking substantial organic carbon inputs from vegetation. This study investigates desert topsoils and biological soil crusts collected along an aridity gradient traversing four climatic regions (sub-humid, semi-arid, arid, and hyper-arid). Metagenomic analysis indicated these communities vary in their capacity to use sunlight, organic compounds, and inorganic compounds as energy sources. Photosynthetic and chemosynthetic primary production co-occurred throughout the gradient, with photosynthesis dominant in biocrusts and chemosynthesis dominant in arid and hyper-arid soils. The findings suggest that the major bacterial lineages inhabiting hot deserts use different strategies for energy and carbon acquisition depending on resource availability. 

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arid region world map