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Research

You will find information on current and past projects

Research in Dr. Drohan's group is currently focused on understanding anthropogenic and climate change imprinting on soils and ecosystems at multiple scales of the critical zone.  Both factors have a lasting effect on the creation of a soil, biogeochemcial cycling, and soil function.  One could argue that anthropogenic and climate change imprinting have an equivalent, lasting effect on the survival of humans.

The genesis of landscapes through time can provide important insight into landscape formation rates, and the genesis of associated soils and vegetation. Sediments deposited during the Pleistocene have recorded a complex history of former permafrost environments and the following periods of warming during the Holocene. Our research in this area examines how soils and landscapes responded to the Pleistocene and what their story can tell us about landscape and ecosystem evolution since.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that 23% of all land has been degraded to some extent (Raskin and Kemp-Benedict, 2004), and industrial development (including mining) has specifically degraded 19.5 million ha (Raskin and Kemp-Benedict, 2004). Coupled with changing climate, management of degraded lands is a substantial challenge facing humanity (Herrick and Beh, 2015), but it is arguably an easier problem to solve than climate change (Herrick et al., 2013a). Increasing population and caloric intake (Kearney, 2010) coupled with climate change will likely have a negative effect on food security in many regions (Africa and Asia in particular). Across many of these same regions soil degradation has already substantially reduced food production and a variety of ecosystem services (Lal, 2001). Our research is focused on examining human imprinting on soils across a variety of land uses in order to promote functional land management under sustainable intensification of commodity development.

USDA-NRCS efforts to document Ecological Sites (Brown, 2010) have rapidly expanded, with the intent being to use each Ecological Site’s State and Transition model (Bestelmeyer et al., 2010) as a means to enhance conservation planning.