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Super Bloom or Super Bust for Desert Seeds?

The rare Barstow wool sunflower was more sensitive to the effects of sun development than its general relative, the wool daisy, in a study at the University of California, Davis and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Credit: Karen Tanner

Throughout Western history, human behavior has often rushed through the desert — and their behavior has backfired. In the 1920s, the Colorado River Compact is an over-allocated water that is still famous for being used in some western states because it measured water during the rainy season.


Recently, operators of a large Ivanpah PV system in the Mojave Desert have spent about $ 45 million to mitigate desert tortoises after an initial number of endangered animals was underestimated prior to construction. I’m spending.

Studies published in the journal Ecological application The University of California, Davis and the University of California, Santa Cruz warn that desert timing discrepancies can occur in the race against climate change and for rapid renewable energy development. ..

“Our research suggests that green energy and species conservation goals may conflict in the Mojave Desert of California. The Mojave Desert expands rapidly with nearly 500 rare plant species. It supports the solar industry, “said Karentanar, the lead author with a PhD. .D. A student at the University of California, Santa Cruz under a grant led by Rebecca R. Hernandez, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis.

Tanner has been teasing the demographics of two unique desert flowers, the rare Barstow wool sunflower (E. mohavense) and the common Wallace wool daisy (E. wallacei), for seven years, both outdoors and on experimental solar panels. We compared the performance of. The authors wondered how desert-adapted plants respond to panels that block light and rainfall. Do rare species react differently to these changes than common species?

These are not easy questions to find. At some point, Tanner glued small seeds to individual toothpicks to collect appearance data. In another example, she washed the desert floor with her hands and knees and counted new sunflower saplings that were as rare as the thumbnail size when they matured.

Sun Development: Super Bloom or Super Bust for Desert Species?

A typical Wallace wool daisy grows in the Mojave Desert. Studies from the University of California, Davis and the University of California, Santa Cruz show that common wildflowers are less vulnerable to desert sun development than rare wildflowers. Credit: Karen Tanner

Super Bloom Surprise

This painstaking effort is one of the reasons why previous studies have not modeled the response of species to solar power at the population level. Modeling the interactions of lesser-known species in the desert to avoid requires time-consuming, cumbersome logistical and mathematical challenges to be overcome. What you can’t see anywhere in one year may prosper in the next.

That surprising element makes “Super Bloom” special and attractive. These bursts of wildflowers cover the expanse of the desert landscape, especially after rainy years and are considered important for the long-term sustainability of the desert’s annual population.

The study found that the effect of solar panels on plant response is strongly influenced by the physical characteristics of the weather and landscape. During the 2017 Super Bloom, the shade of the panel adversely affected the population growth of rare species, but had little effect on its general relatives.

This study suggests that rare species may be more sensitive to the effects of solar development than common species. It highlights the potential for solar panel effects to vary between species and over space and time.

Sun Development: Super Bloom or Super Bust for Desert Species?

Widflowers cover the desert near the Mojave Desert survey site. Credit: Karen Tanner

Just a matter of time

This study provides an example of the importance of spending the time needed to understand an ecosystem before it is irreparably changed.

“Deserts and many other biomes do not react on our timescale,” said Hernandez, co-director of the Wild Energy Initiative through the John Muir Institute at the University of California, Davis. “If you want to understand them, you need to study them on the timescale they work on. Otherwise, it’s like taking a picture of a moving train and calling it a shipping container. Already Race to build renewable energy in peeled places Their biology makes sense. Wait for the solar to be installed on an existing rooftop, but in the natural environment, first You need to listen and observe. ”


Cacti and other iconic desert plants threatened by the development of solar energy


For more information:
Karen E. Tanner et al, a microhabitat associated with solar energy development, modifies the demographics of two desert annuals. Ecological application (2021). DOI: 10.1002 / eap.2349

Quote: Solar Development: Desert Super Bloom or Super Bust? (May 3, 2021) Obtained May 3, 2021 from https: //phys.org/news/2021-05-solar-super-bloom-species.html

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Super Bloom or Super Bust for Desert Seeds?

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