National Park Service

Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN)

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Spring at Glen Canyon NRA

Spring
Ecosystems
Monitoring

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

  1. Spring flow and depth to groundwater
  2. Vegetation composition and structure
  3. Spring water quality

Parks and springs where SCPN plans to monitor spring ecosystems

Park Springs
Canyon de Chelly NM TBD
Chaco Culture NHP TBD
El Morro NM TBD
Glen Canyon NRA TBD
Grand Canyon NP TBD
Mesa Verde NP TBD
Navajo NM TBD
Salinas Pueblo Missions NM TBD
Yucca House NM TBD

Springs are important water sources in arid landscapes, supporting unique plant associations and sustaining high levels of biotic diversity. Because springs rely on groundwater, they can serve as important indicators of change in local and regional aquifers. On the Colorado Plateau, spring ecosystems also provide vital habitat for both en-demic and regionally rare species, including several types of orchids and declining populations of leopard frogs. Throughout the southwestern United States, the vast majority of springs have been developed for human or livestock use in historic times. Undisturbed spring ecosystems on National Park Service lands can provide reference condition data for degraded springs in other areas.

Historically, springs on the Colorado Plateau have been widely used as domestic and livestock water sources. At some springs within SCPN parks, the remnants of previous land use, such as water diversions and spring boxes, are still visible and their impacts, including altered vegetation composition, are still evident. The effects of visitor use including water pollution, social trailing, and trampling, are also a concern in some parks. Potential decline in flow due to groundwater withdrawals outside park boundaries threatens springs in many parks.

Monitoring Objectives

Specific objectives of the spring ecosystems monitoring protocol are

  • Determine the status and trends in amount, timing, and persistence of spring flow.
  • Determine the status and trends in composition, diversity and structure of spring-fed riparian vegetation.
Bowns Canyon Spring in Glen Canyon NRA<br />(SCPN photo) Leopard frog in pool at Bowns Canyon Spring in Glen Canyon NRA (SCPN photo) Dogwood Spring at Coyote Gulch in Glen Canyon NRA<br />(SCPN photo) San Juan Spring in Glen Canyon NRA<br />(SCPN photo) Fern shrouded spring in Glen Canyon NRA<br />(SCPN photo) Sheet flows from a seep in Glen Canyon NRA<br />(SCPN photo) Lower falls of Monument Spring in Grand Canyon NP<br />(SCPN photo) Upper Canon Sapato spring pool in the Quarai Unit of Salinas Pueblo Missions NM (SCPN photo) Abandoned spring box at the Quarai Unit in Salinas Pueblo Missions NM (SCPN photo) Measuring the water level in a piezometer at Heiser Spring in Wupatki NM (SCPN photo)

Monitoring Project Status

A comprehensive inventory of 79 selected springs in and near parks across the Colorado Plateau was completed in 2005. Additionally, spring ecosystems were inventoried at Canyon de Chelly NM in 2006 and 2011, at Grand Canyon NP in 2009 and 2010, and at Navajo NM in 2010. The Springs Monitoring Protocol for the Southern Colorado Plateau Network is currently being developed, and the start date for springs monitoring is still to be determined.

Project Contacts

Dusty Perkins, Acting Program Manager
Southern Colorado Plateau Network

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Last Updated: December 19, 2017 Contact Webmaster