Adaptation, Mitigation, and Biophysical Feedbacks in the Changing Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats is a vast perennial salt pan in northwest Utah that is changing rapidly. The system is sensitive to variations in rain, wind, evaporation, and groundwater flux, and it is known world-wide as the location where land-speed racing records are set. It has also supported potash mining and other recreational activities. Recent environmental changes are limiting these historic uses, and land managers are actively making decisions about ways to preserve this environment for the continuation of land-speed racing, while still maintaining opportunities for natural resource extraction and ecosystem function. This project will look closely at how the physical environment and the human population around it are linked; how the changing environment influences decisions and policy changes regarding the maintenance and use of the Bonneville Salt Flats; and how ongoing human activities and interventions are altering the conditions of this important resource.

This project will identify the linkages among management decisions, stakeholder perception and use, and the natural biophysical and hydrological system of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Examining the salt flats as a coupled natural and human system will help determine: how environmental, hydrological, and microbiological conditions regulate the dissolution and precipitation of the salt crust; the nature of the relationships among various stakeholders and their motivations for maintaining specific conditions at the Bonneville Salt Flats; the influence of the salt flats on culture and land use over time; and the effects of human activities, decisions, and mitigation efforts on the biophysical system. This project will quantify rates and characteristics of environmental change and evaluate the feedbacks between the biophysical changes and the stakeholder communities.




Lead Investigator: