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USGS Navajo Land Use Planning Project (NLUPP)

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Climatic factors describing sand dune mobility: The occurrence of dunes is related to several factors involving sediment source areas and characteristics, terrain (topography), climatic factors (wind speed and duration, and moisture), and surface vegetation.
Stabilized dunes with plant cover.

Many parts of the Navajo Nation are covered with inactive dunes or eolian sand sheets that are currently inactive, with plant cover being a major factor in their stability. Both climate (drought) and land use (particularly overgrazing) are factors that strongly influence plant cover and, in turn, dune stability. Once dunes, soil, and alluvium loose their cover, they are susceptible to erosion from wind storms and infrequent heavy thunderstorms. Once dunes become mobilized, there is little that can be done to stop them from expanding and migrating.


Example of inactive (stable) dunes with plant cover on the Navajo Nation.

(image source: Margaret Hiza-Redsteer, USGS Flagstaff, AZ)
 

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