Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Joni Downs Firat, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Philip Van Beynen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarah Sheffield, Ph.D.


desertification risk, land degradation, environmentally sensitive area, MEDALUS


It is widely recognized that desertification constitutes one of the biggest environmental problems on Earth. Desertification negatively impacts the future of humans and other living things all over the globe. Therefore, the assessment of desertification is essential to both monitor and combat desertification. A number of models are routinely applied to assess desertification. The MEDALUS model is one of the most popular approaches, identifying desertification risk based on an environmentally sensitive area index (ESAI) that integrates climate, vegetation, soils, groundwater, and socio-economic factors to obtain an overall rating. The goal of this study was to measure the potential impacts of desertification on bird species of special concern in San Diego County, California. First, the ESAI was applied to the county using a geographic information system (GIS). Second, the resulting ESAI was overlaid to the ranges of first priority seven taxa of bird species of special concern. The results illustrated that the area has high desertification risk. In addition, seven taxa of bird species of special concern may be under desertification stress. Changes in land use and a decrease in the vegetation cover resulting from human activities the major factors of the desertification process.