Research in the Sala Lab focuses on controls of the functioning of arid and semiarid ecosystems. We are driven by questions and hypotheses and use multiple tools to address them, including synthesis, field experiments, and simulation modeling. These tools yield complementary answers to our research questions – Data syntheses provide temporal and spatial depth, modeling allows us to explore future scenarios, and experimentation best tackles cause-effect relationships.

We work at multiple scales, from plots at the Jornada Experimental Range to experiments distributed across the Great Plains of the US and the rest of the world. We complement these studies with global analyses and models.

Major Research Themes of the Sala Lab

  • the effects of changes in climate on the functioning of arid and semiarid ecosystems
  • effects of woody-plant encroachment on ecosystem services
  • controls on above- vs. below-ground partitioning of plant primary production
  • forecasting dryland vulnerability in western drylands used by the DoD
  • coordination of global drought research

We tackle these themes at multiple scales, from the local to the regional and global. Find out more by selecting an image below:


We have worked in many regions of the world, from the Patagonian Steppe and grasslands of the Great Plains of North America to the arid ecosystems of South Africa and the annual grasslands of California. Currently, most of the experimental work is focused on the Chihuahuan Desert, at the Jornada Long Term Ecological Research site. Our research effort is closely integrated with our education and outreach mission. We collaborate with several institutions beyond Arizona State University including Asombro Institute for Science Education and SOGES.