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

He Jin, Ph.D.


Medalus, Environmental, Anthropic, Wildlife, Desertification


Desertification is one of the primary threats facing the sustainability of the Earths’s natural resources. Desertification it is an outcome of human impacts to ecosystems and alterations of climate patterns resulting in land degradation and adverse effect on natural resources, vegetation loss, soil infertility, and water scarcity. These changes influence the existence and distribution of wildlife by reducing the availability and quality of habitat that provides food, water, cover, and other life requisites. Therefore, this study aimed at evaluation of potential desertification risks on wildlife species in the Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Plan (DRECP) area of California.

The DRECP includes land in seven counties (San Diego, Los Angeles, Kern, Inyo, Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino), and is an area managed to support both renewable energy and environmental conservation goals. Since the DRECP area is seen as a vital area for supplying demand through natural ways for wildlife, the relationship between wildlife and land fertility was explored. An Environmentally Sensitive Areas Index (ESAI) was used to evaluate the soil, vegetation, and anthropogenic quality of land in the DRECP.In addition, spatial ranges of wildlife species were overlaid the ESAI to identify the proportions of their habitat that were rated as non-affected, not very sensitive, or very sensitive to desertification. The results were used to evaluate which locations and what species were at most potential risk of desertification.

To conclude, results revealed that most of the DRECP area (approximately 99 %) is under the potential risk of desertification. In addition, many wildlife species in the area are sensitive to high desertification conditions. Therefore, wildlife species may be impacted by further land degradation and desertification in the region.