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Defining A Healthy Riparian Area. Dr. Karl Wood, Director Water Resources Research Institute Dr. Terrell Baker, Riparian Ecologist New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM. Webster’s Definition of “Health”. 1. Physical and mental well-being; 2. Soundness;

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slide1

Defining A Healthy Riparian Area

Dr. Karl Wood, Director

Water Resources Research Institute

Dr. Terrell Baker, Riparian Ecologist

New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NM

slide2

Webster’s Definition of “Health”

1. Physical and mental well-being;

2. Soundness;

3. Freedom from defect, pain, or disease;

4. Normality of mental and physical functions

How does this definition apply to riparian areas?

slide3

What are some other terms or phrases used to describe watersheds?

Functioning and Non-Functioning

Proper Functioning Condition

Impaired

At Risk

Upward Trend

Downward Trend

Stable

Sustainable

slide4

Some Related Definitions

Rangeland Health (Natural Research Council 1994)

“The degree to which the integrity of the soil and ecological processes of rangeland ecosystems are maintained”

Forest Health (U.S. Forest Service)

“A condition wherein a forest has the capacity across the landscape for renewal, for recovery from a wide range of disturbances, and for retention of ecological resiliency, while meeting current and future needs of people for desired levels of values, uses, products, and services”

Riparian Health (Need Citation)

“” Feds have some 70 plus definitions

compare to wetlands
Compare to Wetlands
  • Lots of science
  • Tight definition (at least comparatively)
  • Regulatory authority
slide6

Why this vision of everything being black or white,

and why are these definitions bothersome?

1. They convey that everything is either right or wrong.

2. They infer that nature gives values to society.

3. They also infer that society’s values are mutual across all lands, both public and private

slide7

Most people have an intuitive idea of what constitutes a healthy riparian area; at least, they believe they can recognize an unhealthy one when they see it.

Using “health” to describe watersheds is probably inappropriate.

slide8

Riparian Conditions

Fall Along

A Continuum!

How can we express that continuum?

Ecosystem Succession or the Sere is a good start!

slide9

Concept of the Sere

Example developed in North America by H.C. Cowles and F.E. Clements about 100 years ago

Climax

Conifers

Deciduous trees

Shrubs

Perennial grasses and forbs

Climate

Annuals

Mosses

Lichens

Bare

Rock

Soil depth and

richness

Time

slide12

Conifer invasion

of a meadow

slide17

Concept of the Sere

Climax

Shrubs

Perennial grasses and forbs

Climate

Annuals

Mosses

Lichens

Bare

Rock

Soil depth and

richness

Time

slide19

Concept of the Sere

Perennial grasses and forbs

Climax

Climate

Annuals

Mosses

Lichens

Bare

Rock

Soil depth and

richness

Time

slide21

Concept of the Sere

Climate

Lichens

Climax

Bare

Rock

Soil depth and

richness

Time

slide23

Would A Society Ever Want

To Maintain Bare Rock

Or a Very Low Seral Stage

Riparian Area?

Example: Irrigation Ditches

slide24

General Comments On Ecosystem Succession

  • Movement towards climax is called succession
  • Movement away from climax is called retrogression (e.g. Desertification)
  • The kinds of animals different in each seral stage.
  • The climax seral stage usually does not represent the greatest species diversity of plants and animals.
  • Subclimax seral stages may be maintained by continuous or discontinuous perturbations such as fire, grazing, hurricanes, etc.
  • Multiple equilibrium communities and complex successional pathways may be possible within a sere.
slide25

Explanations of “ecosystem succession” have been modified and expanded by:

Gleason 1926 – recognized individual species differences

Tansley 1935 – proposed more than one climax for a site

Watt 1947 - identified the importance of patches and disturbance cycles

Egler 1954 – noted that species did not always invade but were present and increased

Pickett 1976 – recognized importance of natural selection and disturbance

Connell and Slatyer 1977 – proposed facilitation, tolerance, and inhibition

Grime 1979 – proposed ruderal, competitive, and stress-tolerant stages

Huston and Smith 1987 – demonstrate 5 successional patterns: sequential succession, divergence, total suppression, convergence, and pseudo- cyclic replacement

Shugart 1984 – claimed mechanistic rather than deterministic processes

Westoby 1989 – explained state-and-transition models or thresholds

Oliver and Larson 1990 – allowed for chaotic or non-equilibrium cycles

slide26

Tomanage a riparian area,

managers need to know:

1. What is the potential or climax seral stage of the riparian area?

2. What is the present seral stage of the riparian area?

  • Is it all the same or are there different seral stages in different parts of the riparian area?

3. Are there several acceptable seral stages and a preferred seral stage of the riparian area and/or its parts?

  • 4. Can the preferred seral stage be achieved with the present technology, time, legal, political, and economic constraints?
slide27

Concept of the Sere

Conifers

Most

choices

are here!

Deciduous trees

Shrubs

Perennial grasses and forbs

Climate

Annuals

Mosses

Lichens

Bare

Rock

Soil depth and

richness

Time

slide29

“If the prime objective is wood products, we may continue to overgraze, letting in the woodland and sacrificing watershed values.

If on the other hand the prime objective is watersheds, we should restore grass, which

all the evidence indicates is a better watershed cover than either brush or woodland.”

Aldo Leopold

slide31

Steps for Watershed Management

Preliminary Assessment and Surveillance

slide32

Preliminary Assessments and Surveillance

“Nothing in nature is isolated. Nothing is without reference to something else. Nothing achieves meaning apart from that which neighbors it.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“There is something fascinating about studies of science.

One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of

such trifling investment of fact.”

Mark Twain

slide33

Steps for Watershed Management

Preliminary Assessment and Surveillance

Goal Setting

Prioritization and Targeting

Watershed Planning – develop

document with roles and

implementation strategy

Implementation

Performance evaluation

slide34

For any given response variable such as:

Erosion, Runoff, Evaporation,

Stream Temperature, Sediment Load,

Arsenic Content, Plant Growth, Insect Populations, etc.

Questions should be asked:

1. What are the natural levels with variations between hours, days, months, and years?

2. What are maximum potential levels?

3. What are the tolerable levels to sustain the preferred seral stage?

4. What are the desirable levels?

  • Are the desirable levels achievable with present technology, time, legal, political, and economic constraints?
slide35

Conclusions

Nature abhors a void

Nature abhors topographical prominence

Nature abhors a crowd

Natural changes are often dynamic and catastrophic with unpleasant consequences for humans

Human changes of nature may be dynamic and catastrophic, or static, controlled, predictable, and beneficial to humans, wildlife, and watersheds

Human influence is most probable for avoiding catastrophes and assuring ecological, social, and economic stability.

slide36

Conclusions

A Healthy Watershed = preferred seral state is attained

Sustainability = preferred seral stage is maintained against the processes of succession and retrogression, including invasions, especially by exotics

slide38

Thank you!

Thank you!