Model Development for Mitigation of Arid Landscape Transformation (MoD MALT): Collaborative development of eco‐hydrologic model and analysis across the Sonoran Desert and Sahelian West Africa


  • Jean‐Martial Cohard, Maitre de Conférence, Université Grenoble Alpes, UMR 5001, Institut des Géosciences et Environnement
  • Theirry Pellarin,Directeur de recherché, CNRS, UMR 5001, Institut des Géosciences et Environnement
  • Basile Hector, Chargé de recherché, IRD, UMR 5001, Institut des Géosciences et Environnement
  • Jean-Pierre, Vandervaere, Maître de Conférence,UMR 5001, Institut des Géosciences et Environnement
  • Laura Condon, Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, UArizona


Arid landscape transformation is a pressing global challenge; warmer temperatures and changing precipitation regimes are expected to decrease water supply in many arid locations that are already water limited. This may result in the expansion of arid landscapes and ecosystem changes in existing arid landscapes. Arid and semi‐arid lands cover nearly half the planet - Rapid warming and shifting precipitation regimes threaten already fragile and water limited ecosystems. Recharge mitigation strategies can help to  optimize water preservation and use. Such methods have already shown great promise in West Africa as Arizona. The outstanding scientific challenge is that while increased water limitation and vegetation changes are expected, the efficiency of these low tech solutions are uncertain and will depend on both local precipitation regimes and local soil properties. We don’t currently have a way to predict the impact of micro dams or ditch networks on vegetation settlement or groundwater recharge. Unfortunately, our ability to evaluate such strategies is limited by current modeling capabilities. We lack tools to quantify how water partitioning changes impact vegetation production for highly coupled water/vegetation/nutriment systems.

This limits our ability to plan strategically where to invest in these efforts and how to distribute them spatially. Existing land surface models can simulate dynamic vegetation changes however they are lacking in groundwater processes and horizontal water transfers. Groundwater models can also help address this gap, however, they are generally lacking in the surface level processes and complexity to really capture the 2D surface runoff and ponding dynamics necessary to estimate induced recharge. The proposed project addresses this gap by 1) developing a new state-of-the-art quantitative eco‐hydrological model and 2) using this model to explore some adaptation strategies to global changes, such as micro‐dams in arid and semi‐arid regions. The team combines expertise in integrated hydrologic modeling (US), West African hydrology and mitigation strategies (French). Combined, a new tool specifically designed and built to explore recharge mitigation strategies in arid lands.

Dr. Condon and Dr. Cohard have strong funded research programs developing large scale integrated hydrologic models in the US and West Africa respectively. The proposed work will strengthen these existing projects, opens up additional collaborative funding options to both groups, and gives more confidence to future initiatives while providing strong collaborative mentoring and training to the graduate student on the project.