Long-term Water Table Monitoring of Rio Grande Riparian Ecosystems for Restoration Potential Amid Hydroclimatic Challenges

Thibault, James R., Cleverly, James R., and Dahm, Clifford N. (2017) Long-term Water Table Monitoring of Rio Grande Riparian Ecosystems for Restoration Potential Amid Hydroclimatic Challenges. Environmental Management, 60. pp. 1101-1115.

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Hydrological processes drive the ecological functioning and sustainability of cottonwood-dominated riparian ecosystems in the arid southwestern USA. Snowmelt runoff elevates groundwater levels and inundates floodplains, which promotes cottonwood germination. Once established, these phreatophytes rely on accessible water tables (WTs). In New Mexico’s Middle Rio Grande corridor diminished flooding and deepening WTs threaten native riparian communities. We monitored surface flows and riparian WTs for up to 14 years, which revealed that WTs and surface flows, including peak snowmelt discharge, respond to basin climate conditions and resource management. WT hydrographs influence the composition of riparian communities and can be used to assess if potential restoration sites meet native vegetation tolerances for WT depths, rates of recession, and variability throughout their life stages. WTs were highly variable in some sites, which can preclude native vegetation less adapted to deep drawdowns during extended droughts. Rates of WT recession varied between sites and should be assessed in regard to recruitment potential. Locations with relatively shallow WTs and limited variability are likely to be more viable for successful restoration. Suitable sites have diminished greatly as the once meandering Rio Grande has been constrained and depleted. Increasing demands on water and the presence of invasive vegetation better adapted to the altered hydrologic regime further impact native riparian communities. Long-term monitoring over a range of sites and hydroclimatic extremes reveals attributes that can be evaluated for restoration potential.

Item ID: 73481
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-1009
Copyright Information: © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2022 01:30
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3707 Hydrology > 370702 Ecohydrology @ 40%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410203 Ecosystem function @ 40%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 20%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190102 Ecosystem adaptation to climate change @ 50%
19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1904 Natural hazards > 190401 Climatological hazards (e.g. extreme temperatures, drought and wildfires) @ 50%
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