Groundwater levels are a major natural resource concern for several Southern Plains Network (SOPN) parks. Natural disturbance processes such as fire, and human land-use activities (e.g. livestock grazing, agricultural clearing and groundwater pumping) alter watershed conditions and thus indirectly influence aquatic communities. Groundwater overdrafts in the SOPN are a leading anthropogenic stressor that can contribute to the establishment and spread of non-native species like Tamarisk that can alter ecosystem dynamics such as the frequency and severity of fires.
The network program includes both point-in-time measurements and development of water level time-series using sensors equipped with recording capabilities. The combination of these approaches allows for adaptation to site-specific conditions, quality control, and flexibility in scheduling site visits. Since groundwater monitoring requires access to the water table, the measurement locations are typically limited to existing wells, but targeted installation of additional monitoring points has not been ruled out. A protocol is currently under development with the Sonoran Desert Network to develop surface water quantity, surface water quality, and ground water quantity monitoring protocols.
Network Park Units Where Monitoring Occurs
Groundwater monitoring is done in five parks within the Southern Plains Network. These parks are listed below.
- Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
- Chickasaw National Recreation Area
- Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park
- Pecos National Historic Park
- Washita Battlefield National Historic Site