Riparian habitats, found along streams and lakes, typically support verdant stands of water-loving plants. Particularly in arid Western states, these habitats provide refuge and forage for many animal species. Throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, riparian habitat has been lost and degraded for a variety of reasons including the introduction of exotic species, channelization of streams, and urbanization of watersheds. Altered precipitation patterns associated with climate change may further degrade riparian areas.
The San Francisco Network Inventory and Monitoring Program (SFAN) is tracking changes in riparian habitat in Pinnacles National Park. Within the park, riparian areas support a high diversity of native flora and fauna including four species of native oaks, the three-spined stickleback fish, and the federally-threatened California red-legged frog.
Monitoring stream channel characteristics and vegetation species composition can provide an early warning to deteriorating riparian habitats. This early warning allows park managers to target resources that need protection and launch additional studies, if necessary.