2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 184-11
Presentation Time: 10:50 AM


ALDRED, Jennifer L.1, SOULLIERE, Katie2, SCHNACKENBERG, Liz2 and FRICK, Betsy2, (1)Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28223, (2)US Forest Service, 925 Weiss Dr, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487, jaldred@uncc.edu

The Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests extend from North Central Colorado to Central Wyoming. The Continental Divide runs through the heart of the forest with the North Platte River draining to the east and the Yampa River draining to the west. To properly manage the vast expanse of forest, it is divided into north (Medicine Bow) and south (Routt) zones. During the summer of 2014, I participated in the GeoCorps internship program serving as a field hydrogeologist for the Routt Forest (~1.1 million acres). One of the biggest threats to riparian areas on the forest is the grazing and trampling of the vegetation adjacent to the stream by ungulates, both domestic and wild. Multiple Indicator Methods (MIMS) and Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) are protocols we used to assess riparian vegetation, stream health and the overall condition of water resources, and determine best management practices. The MIMS methodology was created based on recommendations from an interdisciplinary team of scientists from the University of Idaho commissioned by US Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture on how to properly monitor and manage sensitive riparian areas. We applied a modified version of MIMs to collect riparian vegetation data including diversity and percentage of species, sedge height, abundance of willows and alders, and the percentage of ground trampled. To determine percent ground coverage we used a grid like device constructed from PVC piping and metal rods that we placed along bankfull. Often we would perform a PFC analysis in watersheds where were we were doing MIMs and/or a stream survey. PFC is a qualitative method of assessing stream health based on a number of geomorphic, hydrologic and riparian vegetation factors. For a stream to be considered to be in “proper functioning condition” the system must be vertically stable, the sinuosity, W/D ratio and gradient must be in balance with the landscape and there must be adequate riparian-wetland vegetative cover to dissipate energy during high flows. This methodology is a relatively quick, but effective way of assessing overall riparian and stream health. Together these data provide the information the USFS needs to properly manage and protect the hydrological resources in the forest in conjunction with the multiple uses of these lands.