National Park Service

Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN)

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Riparian area at Glen Canyon NRA



Project Summary

Monitoring Reports

SCPN parks have identified vital signs for this project and related aquatic monitoring

  1. Streamflow and depth to groundwater
  2. Fluvial geomorphology
  3. Vegetation composition and structure
  4. Stream water quality
  5. Aquatic macroinvertebrates

Parks and streams where SCPN may monitor riparian ecosystems

Park Streams
Bandelier NM Capulin Creek,
Rito de los Frijoles
Canyon de Chelly NM Chinle Wash,
Tsaile Creek
Chaco Culture NHP Chaco Wash
Glen Canyon NRA Escalante River
Hubbell Trading Post Pueblo Colorado Wash
Mesa Verde NP Mancos River
Petroglyph NM Boca Negra Arroyo,
Rinconada Arroyo,
Ladera Arroyo
Salinas Pueblo Missions NM Cañon Sapato
Walnut Canyon NM Walnut Creek

Riparian vegetation is the most important functional component of riparian ecosystems. Near-stream vegetation contributes to stream-bank stabilization and provides habitat, organic matter, and nutrients essential to terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Riparian plant communities are sensitive to hydrologic change and vary depending on local geomorphology.

Human activities and periodic natural disturbances, including drought, flooding, and fire, can affect riparian ecosystems. In addition, climate change may affect precipitation regimes, which can lead to changes in hydrologic patterns. This, in turn, can affect the shape of stream channels and water-limited ecological processes, such as nutrient cycling and plant reproduction. Integrated monitoring of vegetation, hydrology, and geomorphology can detect impacts and disturbances to these systems. Long-term monitoring of integrated riparian ecosystems will complement aquatic macroinvertebrate and water quality monitoring, thus providing a more complete evaluation of overall stream health.

Monitoring Objectives

Specific objectives of the integrated riparian ecosystems monitoring protocol are

  • Determine status and trends in the key physical drivers of riparian ecosystems:

– surface and groundwater dynamics,

– geomorphic processes as reflected in
   channel and flood plain form.

  • Determine status and trends in the composition, diversity and structure of riparian vegetation.
Chinle Wash near Canyon de Chelly NM<br />(SCPN photo) Sampling riparian vegetation plots on Tsaile Creek in Canyon de Chelly NM (SCPN photo) Setting up a total station to survey fluvial geomorphology on Chinle Wash in Canyon de Chelly NM (SCPN photo) Surveying fluvial geomorphology along a transect on Chaco Wash in Chaco Culture NHP (SCPN photo) Riparian vegetation along an Escalante River tributary in Glen Canyon NRA (SCPN photo) Bulrush flattened by a recent flood in Pueblo Colorado Wash at Hubbell Trading Post NHS (SCPN photo) Pueblo Colorado Wash in Hubbell Trading Post NHS<br />(SCPN photo) Surveying fluvial geomorphology of Pueblo Colorado Wash at Hubbell Trading Post NHS (SCPN photo) Sampling riparian vegetation on Pueblo Colorado Wash in Hubbell Trading Post NHS (SCPN photo) Riparian vegetation sample plot on Pueblo Colorado Wash in Hubbell Trading Post NHS (SCPN photo) Installing a recording stage gage to monitor ground/surface water height, Quarai, Salinas Pueblo Missions (SCPN photo) Recording stage gage installed to document high flows on Walnut Creek in Walnut Canyon NM (SCPN photo)

Monitoring Project Status

Pilot studies were completed in 2006. Monitoring was implemented in Hubbell Trading Post NHS and Chaco Culture NHS in 2007 and in Canyon de Chelly NM in 2009. The Integrated Riparian Monitoring Protocol for the Southern Colorado Plateau Network is currently in development.

Project Contacts

Dusty Perkins, Acting Program Manager
Southern Colorado Plateau Network

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Last Updated: December 19, 2017 Contact Webmaster