Death Valley Dunes

April 08, 2008

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Provided by: Mila Zinkova, Fogshadow
Summary authors & editors: Mila Zinkova, Stu Witmer

The photo above of a series of coppice dunes, or nebkha, was taken in Death Valley National Park, California. Nebkha is a North African word descriptive of a type of phytogenic fixed sand dune created by the gathering of wind blown sand beneath and around a plant canopy. The size of each specific dune is due to the physical aspects of the sand, the terrain and wind conditions as well as the type of plant. Mormon tea and mesquite are two likely candidates in the U.S. Southwest because their roots go deep enough to reach water despite the encroaching sands. Nebkhas tend to stabilize sand otherwise blown away making them useful in coastal areas for forming barriers against the high tides of storms or rising sea levels. Nebkhas have also been instrumental in reforestation efforts in the Sinai, Kenya and elsewhere.