- Program Areas
- Energy and Water
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- Munitions Response
- Resource Conservation and Climate Change
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An Ecohydrological Approach to Managing Intermittent and Ephemeral Streams on Department of Defense Lands in the Southwestern United States
Ephemeral and intermittent streams are the predominant fluvial forms in arid and semiarid environments, yet knowledge of how these streams function is limited, and, specifically, how the hydrologic properties of these systems are linked to their ecological function is not well understood. Various studies have shown biodiversity and habitat value in arid and semiarid lands to be considerably higher along ephemeral and intermittent stream corridors in comparison to adjacent uplands. The central premise of this research is that the ecological integrity of these streams and the species that depend on them (including threatened, endangered, and at-risk species) is inextricably linked to their hydrologic regime and managing these systems is best addressed within an ecohydrological framework.
The objective of this project is to develop an ecohydrologically based classification and assessment methodology that (1) distinguishes ephemeral and intermittent channel types by a set of biotic and abiotic attributes that are directly related to their hydrologic regime and (2) enables Department of Defense (DoD) managers to evaluate the impacts of perturbations (e.g., climate change, military activities) on the hydrologic regimes of these systems and the species that depend on them.
A classification and assessment methodology will be developed and tested at four military installations in the southwestern United States, representing the four Southwestern ecoregions--Fort Irwin (Mojave Basin and Range), Yuma Proving Grounds (Sonoran Desert), Fort Huachuca (Madrean Archipelago), and Fort Bliss (Chihuahuan Desert). The project will begin with the acquisition and preparation of existing climatic, physical, and biological data from GIS, remote sensing, and ground-based methods for each study site. Expertise from installation resource staff will guide the identification of geographic areas of particular importance at each installation (e.g., areas of high conservation priority, species of concern, and priority areas within the channel network). Historical climate data will be gathered across the four ecoregions and coupled with topographic and geologic data to determine the seasonal hydrologic regimes of each of the study sites. Digital elevation models and imagery (including LiDAR and high resolution multispectral imagery) will be used to identify channel morphologies and riparian vegetation composition and structure along longitudinal gradients. The physically based hydrologic model AGWA/KINEROS2 will be used to develop hydrologic gradients of peak flows, flow frequency, and available surface water, and channel morphologies will be evaluated for their degree of adjustment to seasonal hydrologic inputs. Existing groundwater data (where available), riparian composition and structure, plant phenologies, and landscape position will be coupled with surface water modeling to determine the likelihood of relative surface/groundwater dependence by riparian vegetation along channel networks at each study site. Statistical approaches (e.g., classification and regression trees, multivariate regression trees) will be used to classify ephemeral and intermittent streams by these ecohydrologic properties along xeric to mesic gradients. A stream health assessment methodology will be developed that links the ecohydrologic metrics of the classification system with hydrologic modeling to evaluate the impacts of climate change, training activities, and land management decisions on channel health and habitat values.
This research will lead to (1) advances in scientific understanding of how ephemeral and intermittent streams function, (2) a framework for evaluating the ecological integrity of these stream systems that is hydrologically based, and (3) a tool that can be used by installation resource staff for assessing impacts of perturbations (e.g., climate change, military activities) on the hydrologic regimes and species that depend on these streams on DoD installations and ranges in the southwestern United States. (Anticipated Project Completion - 2014)
Symposium & Workshop
FY 2013 New Start Project Selections
Points of Contact
Dr. Lainie Levick
University of Arizona
Phone: 520-647-9153 x176
Resource Conservation and Climate Change
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