Riparian habitats constitute less than 2% of the land area in the American Southwest, but support the highest density and abundance of plants and animals of any habitat type, making streams and associated riparian areas critical to the ecological integrity of the region. Riparian areas supply food, cover, and water, and serve as migration routes and habitat connectors for a variety of wildlife. They also help control water pollution, reduce erosion, mitigate floods, and increase groundwater recharge. Riparian systems perform numerous ecosystem functions important to human populations, yet are one of the most endangered forest types in the United States.
The goal of this protocol is to detect broad-scale changes in aquatic and riparian ecological condition by observing selected ecological drivers, stressors, and processes. Specific, measurable objectives are to determine status and long-term trends in selected parameters for stream channel morphology and riparian vegetation. Additionally, measurements that relate to other vital signs included in this protocol include core water quality parameters, surface water quantity, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and fish.
Network Park Units Where Monitoring Occurs
Riparian vegetation monitoring is done in six 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
- Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
- Washita Battlefield National Historic Site