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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: HYDROLOGIC PROCESSES, SCALE, CLIMATE VARIABILITY, AND WATER RESOURCES FOR SEMIARID WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

Location: Southwest Watershed Research

Title: Projecting avian response to linked changes in groundwater and riparian floodplain vegetation along a dryland river: a scenario analysis

Authors
item Brand, L. -
item Stromberg, J. -
item Goodrich, David
item Dixon, M. -
item Lansey, K. -
item Kang, D. -
item Brookshire, D. -
item Cerasale, D. -

Submitted to: Ecohydrology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 9, 2010
Publication Date: July 5, 2010
Repository URL: http://www.interscience.wiley.com
Citation: Brand, L.A., Stromberg, J.C., Goodrich, D.C., Dixon, M.D., Lansey, K., Kang, D., Brookshire, D.S., Cerasale, D.J. 2010. Projecting avian response to linked changes in groundwater and riparian floodplain vegetation along a dryland river: a scenario analysis. Ecohydrology. p. 1-13. doi: 10.1002/eco.143.

Interpretive Summary: Natural, intact, freshwater ecosystems, and the habitat they support are relatively rare in the semi-arid southwest. The water supporting these systems is often in high demand for human or agriculture use. To address this conflict, natural scientists must evaluate how human water use decisions impact hydrologic regimes and the ecological systems this water supports. In this study a model was developed that links groundwater changes with changes in riparian vegetation and changes in the abundance of breeding and migratory birds along the upper San Pedro River, Arizona. When groundwater levels decline, cottonwoods and willows progressively decline, and shrubbier species less dependent on permanent water sources increase. This results in broad shifts in the composition of the breeding bird community, with canopy nesting and water birds declining but nesting birds that nest in the middle of trees increase. When groundwater levels increase there were increases in birds which nest high in the tree canopy. When growth and groundwater pumping or recharge decisions are made, these models can be used to predict changes in riparian habitat and the bird populations they support.

Technical Abstract: Groundwater is a key driver of riparian condition on dryland rivers but is in high demand for municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses. Approaches are needed to guide decisions that balance human water needs while conserving riparian ecosystems. We developed a space-for-time substitution model that links groundwater change scenarios implemented within a Decision Support System (DSS) with proportions of floodplain vegetation types and abundances of breeding and migratory birds along the upper San Pedro River, Arizona. In groundwater decline scenarios, relative proportions of tall-canopied cottonwood/willow on the floodplain progressively decline, and shrubbier species less dependent on permanent water sources increase. These scenarios result in broad shifts in the composition of the breeding bird community, with canopy nesting and water-obligate birds declining but midstory nesting birds increasing in abundance as groundwater declines. Groundwater recharge scenarios were associated with increases in canopy nesting birds. Model outputs serve to assess the sensitivity of biotic groups to potential changes in groundwater and thus to rank scenarios based on their expected ecological impacts.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014
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