The National Wind Erosion Research Network was established in 2014 as a collaborative effort led by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Long Term Agro-Ecosystem Research (LTAR) network and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The research domain incorporates the diverse soils and vegetation communities in the rangelands and croplands of the western United States, with sites located in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, California, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Idaho and Washington.
Public awareness and concern about wind erosion is high. This concern has arisen from growing experience and scientific understanding of the impacts of wind erosion and dust emission. These impacts play out through interactions between the dust cycle (dust emission, transport and deposition) and Earth and human systems, including: declining soil productivity and its effects on ecosystem health and agricultural production, air quality, highway safety, human health, and dust interactions with cycles of energy, carbon and water. While dust emissions from the US are small in comparison with those from other global sources (e.g., North Africa, Central and Eastern Asia), the local and regional impacts are significant.
Measuring and monitoring wind erosion over large areas is difficult because of the many factors (soil, vegetation, land management, and weather) that influence the process and which can be highly variable in space and time. Models are needed to predict where and when wind erosion and dust emission will occur, what happens to the eroded material, and what the impacts might be. Accounting for the effects of land management is especially important because human activities that modify landscapes can accelerate rates of wind erosion and dust emission, and the impacts both on-site and downwind.
The overarching objectives of the National Wind Erosion Research Network are to (1) provide data to support understanding of wind erosion processes across land use and land cover types and for different management practices, (2) support the development of models to assess wind erosion and dust emission and their impacts on human and environmental systems, and (3) encourage collaboration among the aeolian research community, resource managers and policy makers to develop the science and its application to understanding and managing aeolian processes and environments.
The National Wind Erosion Research Network is the first long-term, intensively instrumented wind erosion research network in the United States. The Network openly encourages connections between local and international collaborators researching wind erosion and dust emission. The detailed data, collected using standard methods across a range of land use and management systems, will provide excellent opportunities to build our understanding of aeolian processes and develop models in a way that will have direct benefits for management and scientific understanding.