The Effect of Military Operations on Desert Pavement

A Case Study from Butler Pass, AZ (USA)
  • Daniel A. Gilewitch

Military activities cause physical alteration of landscapes that can provide geomorphologists unique opportunities to better understand natural processes. Today’s desert pavement in western Arizona exhibits scars from 1940s era tracked vehicle maneuvers. This study examines the impact of these military maneuvers with particular attention to an unexpected field observation of deeper soil moisture penetration beneath scarred pavement than under undisturbed pavement, a condition that appears contradictory to results of previous work. Field work and backscatter electron microscopy images reveal destruction of the Av horizon and fractured soil plasma near the surface under track scars; this fracturing promotes soil moisture penetration relative to the naturally indurated, compact, surface material of undisturbed pavement. Increasing moisture penetration of the subsurface may encourage plant growth and have consequences to the ecological functioning of a largely barren landform.


Arid Region Wind Erosion Soil Compaction Soil Density Military Operation 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel A. Gilewitch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental EngineeringUS Military AcademyWest PointUSA

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