Dynamical Processes on Desert Pavements and the Healing of Surficial Disturbances
Mature desert pavements are traditionally regarded as hallmarks of stability, but their stability is dynamic, not static. In a study aimed at documenting this dynamic stability and its role in healing surface disturbances, experiments were performed over a 5-yr period on small cleared patches, or plats, on pavement surfaces in Panamint Valley, California. These experiments show that stones from plat edges begin to resurface the clearing at rates of about 1% per year on 40-cm-square plats and 10% per year on 10-cm-square plats. Stones contributing to the regenerated pavement have smaller average diameters than stones on the surrounding pavement. Cavities 5-10 cm deep, formed in mature pavement by removal of embedded boulders, fill by ravel and slope failure. After five years, cavity depth has been reduced by as much as 60%. Forty-year-old boulder cavities are nearly completely refilled and have been repaved by smaller than average pavement stones. Gaps caused by removal of small stones (2-3 cm) have completely healed in 5 yr. Displacement of surface stones by small animals is a major component of the healing process. © 1996 University of Washington.
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