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Open-File Report 2014–1048

Soil Compaction Vulnerability at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Southwestern Arizona

By Robert H. Webb, Kenneth E. Nussear, Shinji Carmichael, and Todd C. Esque

Abstract

Compaction vulnerability of different types of soils by hikers and vehicles is poorly known, particularly for soils of arid and semiarid regions. Engineering analyses have long shown that poorly sorted soils (for example, sandy loams) compact to high densities, whereas well-sorted soils (for example, eolian sand) do not compact, and high gravel content may reduce compaction. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (ORPI) in southwestern Arizona, is affected greatly by illicit activities associated with the United States–Mexico border, and has many soils that resource managers consider to be highly vulnerable to compaction. Using geospatial soils data for ORPI, compaction vulnerability was estimated qualitatively based on the amount of gravel and the degree of sorting of sand and finer particles. To test this qualitative assessment, soil samples were collected from 48 sites across all soil map units, and undisturbed bulk densities were measured. A scoring system was used to create a vulnerability index for soils on the basis of particle-size sorting, soil properties derived from Proctor compaction analyses, and the field undisturbed bulk densities. The results of the laboratory analyses indicated that the qualitative assessments of soil compaction vulnerability underestimated the area of high vulnerability soils by 73 percent. The results showed that compaction vulnerability of desert soils, such as those at ORPI, can be quantified using laboratory tests and evaluated using geographic information system analyses, providing a management tool that managers potentially could use to inform decisions about activities that reduce this type of soil disruption in protected areas.

First posted March 10, 2014

For additional information, contact:
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U.S. Geological Survey
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Sacramento, California 95819
http://werc.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Webb, R.H, Nussear, K.E., Carmichael, Shinji, and Esque, T.C., 2014, Soil compaction vulnerability at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014-1048, 24 p., https://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20141048.

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Methods

Results

Discussion and Conclusions

Acknowledgments

References Cited


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