Aeolian processes and the biosphere

Sujith Ravi, Paolo D'Odorico, David D. Breshears, Jason P. Field, Andrew S. Goudie, Travis E. Huxman, Junran Li, Gregory S. Okin, Robert J. Swap, Andrew David Thomas, Scott Van Pelt, Jeffrey J. Whicker, Ted M. Zobeck

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Aeolian processes affect the biosphere in a wide variety of contexts, including landform evolution, biogeochemical cycles, regional climate, human health, and desertification. Collectively, research on aeolian processes and the biosphere is developing rapidly in many diverse and specialized areas, but integration of these recent advances is needed to better address management issues and to set future research priorities. Here we review recent literature on aeolian processes and their interactions with the biosphere, focusing on (1) geography of dust emissions, (2) impacts, interactions, and feedbacks, (3) drivers of dust emissions, and (4) methodological approaches. Geographically, dust emissions are highly spatially variable but also provide connectivity at global scales between sources and effects, with “hot spots” being of particular concern. Recent research reveals that aeolian processes have impacts, interactions, and feedbacks at a variety of scales, including large‐scale dust transport and global biogeochemical cycles, climate mediated interactions between atmospheric dust and ecosystems, impacts on human health, impacts on agriculture, and interactions between aeolian processes and dryland vegetation. Aeolian dust emissions are driven largely by, in addition to climate, a combination of soil properties, soil moisture, vegetation and roughness, biological and physical crusts, and disturbances. Aeolian research methods span laboratory and field techniques, modeling, and remote sensing. Together these integrated perspectives on aeolian processes and the biosphere provide insights into management options and aid in identifying research priorities, both of which are increasingly important given that global climate models predict an increase in aridity in many dryland systems of the world.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberRG3001
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number3
Early online date03 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • aeolian processes
  • wind erosion
  • dust
  • desertification
  • drylands


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