Set in the Morongo Basin of the western Mojave Desert, the Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve is a dry, boulder-strewn landscape of shallow canyons and ridges of sculptured granite. Three floristic regions meet at the site: Transverse Range, Sonoran Desert, and Mojave Desert, creating a diverse mixture of flora and fauna characteristic of both deserts and mountains. Habitats intermingling at the reserve include piñon-juniper woodland with elements of Joshua tree woodland and montane chaparral, desert wash, and freshwater seep.
At least 153 vertebrate species cross paths here, including desert and coast horned lizards, desert and dusky-footed woodrats, mountain and Gambel’s quail, and three rare species: Townsend’s western big-eared bat, California mastiff bat, and the federally and state-threatened desert tortoise. Research opportunities are enriched by other natural lands throughout the desert, such as the Joshua Tree National Park a few miles away.
Other NRS reserves available for desert research are Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center less than an hour’s drive to the south, Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center two and one-half hours to the east, and Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center east of San Diego.
Reserve restoration includes removal of exotic plant species.
A preliminary vegetation study has been conducted to establish a possible long-term monitoring site for assessing the impact of global climate change on plant distributions.
The site is used by university field courses in desert ecology, field zoology methods, natural history, biology of deserts, field ecology, botany, environmental ethics, freshwater biology, and others.
- Census of small mammals
- Inventory of insects
- Census of avifauna
- Monitoring and inventory of bat species
Special Research of National Significance
- North American Carbon Program
- Determining California’s Carbon Budget
- Physiological, Demographic, Competitive and Biogeochemical Controls on the Response of California’s Ecosystems to Environmental Change