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Recovery of Compacted Soils in Mojave Desert Ghost Towns

Webb, Robert H., Steiger, John W., Wilshire, Howard G.
Soil Science Society of America journal 1986 v.50 no.5 pp. 1341-1344
alluvium, buildings, bulk density, compacted soils, freeze-thaw cycles, humans, linear models, monuments, resistance to penetration, shear stress, soil compaction, soil quality, towns, trampling damage, Death Valley, Mojave Desert
Residual compaction of soils was measured at seven sites in five Mojave Desert ghost towns. Soils in these Death Valley National Monument townsites were compacted by vehicles, animals, and human trampling, and the townsites had been completely abandoned and the buildings removed for 64 to 75 yr. The soils studied (generally sandy, mixed, Typic Calciorthids) were derived from granitic or volcanic alluvium at elevations from 1310 to 1730 m. Compaction measurements in the townsites, including penetration depth, penetration resistance, bulk density, and peak shear stress, indicated that only one site had completely recovered to ambient soil conditions after 75 yr. Recovery times extrapolated using a linear recovery model ranged from 80 to 140 yr and averaged 100 yr. The recovery times were related to elevation, suggesting freeze-thaw loosening as an important factor in ameliorating soil compaction in the Mojave Desert.