Desert wetlands—Archives of a wetter past

Fact Sheet 2015-3077
By: , and 



Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are finding evidence of a much wetter past in the deserts of the American Southwest using a most unlikely source—wetlands. Wetlands form in arid environments where water tables approach or breach the ground surface. Often thought of as stagnant and unchanging, new evidence suggests that springs and wetlands responded dynamically to past episodes of abrupt climate change. Multiple cycles of deposition, erosion, and soil formation show that wetlands in the southwestern United States expanded and contracted many times during the past 35,000 years or so, before disappearing altogether as the last glacial period came to a close. USGS scientists are now studying the deposits to determine how closely conditions in the desert were tied to regional and global climate patterns in the past, and what it might mean for the fragile ecosystems in light of anticipated climate change in the future.

Suggested Citation

Pigati, J.S., Springer, K.B., and Manker, C.R., 2015, Desert wetlands—Archives of a wetter past: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2015–3077, 2 p.,

ISSN: 2327-6932 (online)

ISSN: 2327-6916 (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Wetlands in the Geologic Record
  • Ecosystem Response to Climate Change in the Las Vegas Valley
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Desert wetlands—Archives of a wetter past
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2015-3077
DOI 10.3133/fs20153077
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
Description 2 p.
Country United States
State Nevada
Other Geospatial Nevada
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details