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Assessing Land Degradation induced by Recreational Activities in Algodones Dunes, California

Authors: Suet Yi Cheung*, North Carolina State University, Ian J. Walker, Arizona State University, Soe W. Myint, Arizona State University, Ronald I. Dorn, Arizona State University
Topics: Recreational and Sport Geography, Geomorphology
Keywords: Off-highway vehicle, OHV, Recreation, Land Cover Change, MODIS, Sand dunes, Time-series analysis
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The rapid-growth off-highway vehicle (OHV) activities on public lands in the United States in recent decades has impacted a wide range of ecosystems, including arid land and sand dune complexes. This research investigated the spatial and temporal environmental changes associated with climatic variability and OHV activity in the Algodones Dunes using time-series analysis of remotely sensed imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) from 2001 to 2016. Changes in land cover, surface albedo, and surface temperatures are compared between Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA) and non-riding areas in the adjacent North Algodones Dunes Wilderness area (NADW). Both areas show a decreasing normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and an increasing albedo from 2001 to 2016; however, the ISDRA had a lower NDVI value and higher albedo compared to the adjacent NADW. Observed differences in daytime and nighttime land surface temperatures between NADW and ISDRA are more substantial. The ISDRA has an appreciably higher mean daytime temperature and a lower mean nighttime temperature compared to the NADW. Results suggest that there is a direct association between OHV activity and reduction of vegetation cover, increased soil exposure, and higher daytime temperatures in the Algodones Dunes. These trends suggest a decadal scale trend in land degradation indicators superimposed on longer term climatic variability trends. Enhanced monitoring of ecosystem and land use changes coupled with increased management of OHV activity and ecosystem restoration is recommended to reduce longer-term climatic and land degradation impacts and maintain habitat for key species in the dune field.

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