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Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research Site

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Jornada Basin LTER V: Landscape Linkages in Arid and Semiarid Ecosystems  (New Mexico State University)

Research Focus

In southern New Mexico, the Jornada Basin LTER (JRN) program seeks to quantify the key factors and processes that control ecosystem dynamics and biotic patterns in Chihuahuan Desert landscapes. These landscapes are representative of many arid and semiarid ecosystems of the world where dramatic changes in vegetation structure and ecosystem processes have occurred over the past several centuries. These changes are often interpreted as desertification--the broad-scale conversion of perennial grasslands to a landscape dominated by woody plants and the associated loss of soils and biological resources, including biodiversity.

The JRN LTER has been investigating desertification processes since 1982. The study site is located in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, approximately 25 km northeast of Las Cruces, New Mexico. It includes the 78,000 ha Jornada Experimental Range operated by the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the 22,000 ha Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center operated by New Mexico State University.

The Jornada Basin LTER project is administered by New Mexico State University. 

Research Outcomes

Ability To Restore:  Jornada studies initiated in the early 1900s reveal how the change from productive, diverse perennial grasses to shrub lands on degraded soils is difficult, but not impossible, to reverse. With more than 1.25 billion people living in dry areas, it is critical to understand the restoration potential of degraded systems.

Expanding Deserts: Desertification is a global problem that reduces plant productivity, biodiversity, air and soil quality and water availability. JRN scientists developed an integrated understanding of consequences of desertification in arid ecosystems, including loss of ecosystem services.

Accessible Ecology: JRN scientists have created tools and programs to make scientific results readily available to a variety of stakeholders, including land managers, scientists and teachers. They provide web-based access to scientific data, methods to monitor changes in soils and vegetation around the world and training for K-12 students and teachers.

Learn more about JRN LTER research outcomes.

Education & Outreach

Jornada Basin LTER research provides opportunities for a large number of graduate and undergraduate students, primarily from New Mexico State University, a Hispanic-serving institution. 

The program’s Schoolyard Desert Discovery Project is a unique science education program that brings locally relevant environmental science to more than 7,000 K-12 students throughout New Mexico and West Texas each year. It provides classroom education, field trips and teaching materials.

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Images (1 of )

  • student sets up rainout shelter in field
  • Scientists take readings in desert.
  • historic image sepia toned scientists working in desert
Rainfall manipulation experiment at the Jornada LTER. Picture shows a rainout shelter and graduate student Lara Reichmann.
Osvaldo Sala/JRN LTER
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John Anderson, LTER site manager, and Dara Parker take readings at the Jornada Basin LTER site.
Jornada Basin LTER
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Historic image, field research, Jornada Basin LTER
JRN LTER
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