“ARID will address shortcomings in Earth observation of drylands, realize unique new opportunities to improve remote sensing & modeling of the Earth system, and enhance management, sustainability & livelihoods in global arid lands.”


Arid Scaling

Background:  Drylands cover ~40% of global land area, supply 60% of global food production, and take up about 40% of global carbon. Drylands are highly sensitive to changes in climate and land use, and changes in drylands impact critical ecosystem services (e.g. grazing, food and fuelwood production) impacting livelihoods of ~2 billion people worldwide. These ecosystems have also experienced some of the most extreme climate in recent decades, especially in the western US, where thousand-year droughts and extreme heat waves negatively impact livelihoods and natural landscapes. Despite their importance, these ecosystems are under-studied, and thus new research is needed to understand and mitigate dryland climate and anthropogenic changes. For numerous stakeholders, including Federal Managers (BLM, Forest Service), Indigenous Sovereign Nations, State, private and community land-managers, the ARID Field campaign will provide critically needed earth observation tools for sustainable management of the drylands of the western USA and beyond. 

ARID Pillars: ARID will propose new field, airborne and orbiting science programs designed to understand 1) drivers of change in drylands, 2) ongoing and future responses of dryland ecosystems, 3) consequences for ecosystem services and human wellbeing, and 4) opportunities for adaptive management and climate mitigation in drylands, providing increased resilience and sustainability of dryland communities.

Key Questions: (1) What are the main environmental and anthropogenic drivers (e.g. increased aridity, grazing, fire regimes, precipitation variability, increased temperature, drought) of short-term dynamics and long-term change in drylands?, (2) What are the processes, interactions and feedbacks that control dryland responses? (3) What do alterations to dryland structure, composition and function mean for the provision of ecosystem and cultural services, both now and in the future? (4) What opportunities exist for climate change mitigation and adaptation of dryland communities to future changes, and which actions will have the most impact?

Technical Approach: ARID field programs will reflect a strategy for detailed, geographically focused and comprehensive field, airborne and orbiting data collection in North American drylands focused on the western USA, with complementary programs in internationally distributed field sites representing the global variability in dryland environments. The remote sensing of drylands pose unique challenges that will require a coordinated, multi-sensor, multi-scale approach with sensors on towers, UAS’s, NASA’s aircraft and current & future satellites. ARID Science themes will focus on anthropogenic and climate change, biodiversity, carbon and water dynamics (e.g. droughts and pulse events), human dimensions and strategies for dryland community adaptation to, and mitigation of, global climate change.