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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1195

Vegetation and Substrate Properties of Aeolian Dune Fields in the Colorado River Corridor, Grand Canyon, Arizona

By Amy E. Draut

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.7 MB)Abstract

This report summarizes vegetation and substrate properties of aeolian landscapes in the Colorado River corridor through Grand Canyon, Arizona, in Grand Canyon National Park. Characterizing these parameters provides a basis from which to assess future changes in this ecosystem, including the spread of nonnative plant species. Differences are apparent between aeolian dune fields that are downwind of where modern controlled flooding deposits new sandbars (modern-fluvial-sourced dune fields) and those that have received little or no new windblown sand since river regulation began in the 1960s (relict-fluvial-sourced dune fields). The most substantial difference between modern- and relict-fluvial-sourced aeolian dune fields is the greater abundance of biologic soil crust in relict dune fields. These findings can be used with similar investigations in other geomorphic settings in Grand Canyon and elsewhere in the Colorado River corridor to evaluate the health of the Colorado River ecosystem over time.

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Contact Information, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
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400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, California 95060

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Suggested citation:

Draut, A.E., 2011, Vegetation and substrate properties of aeolian dune fields in the Colorado River corridor, Grand Canyon, Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1195, 16 p., available at




Modern and Relict Dune Fields


Results and Discussion



References Cited

28 data tables

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