Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Big Tesuque Creek Hike -- Spring Wildflowers!

As one of the Southernmost perennial streams in the Sangre de Christo Range, Big Tesuque Creek, just minutes outside Santa Fe, is a hotspot of biodiversity and a popular hike/bike/equestrian trail. We visited the area a week ago, on the 12th, but came back again this week because we ran out of daylight last time. On a 3.5 mile hike along the Rosgen Class "B" (controlled by colluvial processes) we crossed the creek almost a dozen times and identified more than 40 species. There are several we could not identify, and photos of these are included first. Click on the images to view the full size.

From Big Tesuque Creek Hike -- Spring Wildflowers!

Enjoying the meadow at the upper trail junction. Since there was not much more than a couple violets, Thermopsis, Dandylions, and Mertensia (Chiming Bells), we decided to head down.

From Big Tesuque Creek Hike -- Spring Wildflowers!


From Big Tesuque Creek Hike -- Spring Wildflowers!

Habitat, showing mid canopy of Alder under Douglas Fir overstory.

From Big Tesuque Creek Hike -- Spring Wildflowers!

From Big Tesuque Creek Hike -- Spring Wildflowers!
Mountain lover.

Species List

Ponderosa upland -- alder and box elder are prominent, Douglas Fir more so further up the canyon. We counted more than 40 species in flower (designated by an *)

*Tragopogon pratensis - Yellow Salsify
*Clematis columbiana - Rocky Mountain Clematis
*Lathyrus eucosmus - Wild Sweetpea
*Lupinus caudatus ssp. argophyllus - Spurred Lupine
*Many daisies
*Mertensia lanceolata - Lanceleaf Bluebells (some with white, some with blue flowers)
Heracleum maximum - Cow Parsnip
*Viola canadensis - Canada Violet
*Viola nephrophylla - Kidney-leaved Violet
*Cardamine cordifolia - Bittercress
*Valeriana arizonica
*Verbena spp?
*Androsace septentrionalis - Northern Rock Jasmine
*Aquilegia elegantula - Elegant Columbine
*Sambucus recemosa - Red Elderberry
*Actaea rubra - Baneberry
Cercocarpous montanus - Mountain Mahogany
Potentilla anserina
*Geum macrophyllum - Cut-leaves Avens
Geranium spp.
*Erysimum capitatum - Western Wallflower
*Fragaria vesca ssp. americana - Wild Strawberry
*Moehringia/Stellaria spp?
*Maianthemum racemosum - False Solomon's Seal
*Quercus spp.
*Besseya plantaginea - Kitttentails
Vaccinium myrtillus(?)
*Berberis fenleri - Fendler Barberry or Mahonia
*Acer glabrum - Rocky Mountain Maple
Plantago major - Common Plantain
*Taraxacum officinale - Dandylion
*Trollius laxus (?) Globe flower, Ranunculaceae
*Ranunculus ssp. - Buttercup
*Utah Serviceberry
*Several kinds of carrot
*Oregon Grape
*Indian Paintbrush
Delphinium spp.
Wax currant
*Antennaria spp.
Equisetum spp.
Box elder

I would write more but I am completely exhausted from hiking and botanizing all day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

RSRA: San Pedro Creek upstream of SR14 Overpass

San Pedro Creek flows out of the San Pedro Mountains, located between the Ortiz and the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico. It may be impacted by current and historic mining in its headwaters, and is currently heavily grazed in this reach. We did notice many small fish, tadpoles, dragonflies, and mayflies, however.

Water Quality: 2,2 = 2
Hydrogeomorphology: 4,5,3,1,1 = 2.8
Fish / Aquatic Habitat: 3,3,5,4,1,2 = 3
Riparian Vegetation: 4,4,2,2,3,2,1,3 = 2.6
Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat: 4,2,1,2 = 1.75

Overall Average: 2.4

The stream radically changes downstream of the highway overpass, where it is managed as a conservation area and supports a rich growth of willow and cottonwood. It goes from a braided channel upstream to a deepened and narrowed channel with plenty of over and underbank cover. It is likely that the grazing regime in our study reach is not condusive to the establishment and growth of woody vegetation.

Monday, May 04, 2009

RSRA: Cebolla Creek Restoration Project

For more information on RSRA's.

RSRA note: we counted all restoration features as if they were natural. For example, recently planted willow were counted as the dominant shrub, in-stream structures were counted as scour pools and riffles, and even supplied the cobble for macroinvertebrates to live under. Because this system is so heavily impacted by erosion, it is unclear which, if any, of these features could be expected to occur under a natural hydrogeomorphology. For example, the valley alluvium may not normally supply cobble for riffles and macroinvertebrate habitat.

Bedrock helps bring subsurface flow to the surface in this area throughout the year, although the stream is spatially intermittent through this reach. The creek is cutting a new floodplain at the bottom of a canyon that has incised through the historic floodplain, and we used the new floodplain to measure hydrogeomorphology because the historic floodplain has been abandoned. This system is currently heavily impacted by grazing, yet, ironically, does not support excessive algae. Perhaps the water is too often disturbed? There are some willows, but they do not shade the stream. Beaver have been recently reintroduced, but they are not doing well in the complete absence of any kind of trees. All

Water Quality: 5,3 = 4
Hydrogeomorphology: 3,5,3,1,3 = 3
Fish Aquatic Habitat: 2,1,N/A,1,1,2 = 1.4
Riparian Vegetation: 1,1,2,1,2,2,1,1 = 1.375
Terrestrial / Wildlife Habitat: 3,1,1,1 = 1.5

Average of averages: 2.255

Selected species list:

Atriplex canescens (Fourwing Saltbush)
Artemesia tridentata (Big Sagebrush)
Fallugia paradoxa (Apache Plume)
Forestiera neomexicana (New Mexico Olive or Privet)
Rosa woodsii (Woods Rose)
Salix exigua (Coyote Willow)
Tamarix spp. (Salt Cedar).

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Bluewater upstream of 2008/2009 Restoration Work

Comments: Beaver Dams (current and historic), as well as rock slide debris creaet riffle pool complexes, overbank (not channelized) flow and side channels.

Heavily vegetated banks, but no/few deciduous woodies. Some bluestem and coyote willow further up (becoming more common/denser the further up the reach). Browsing : 100% explains lack of woodies. Good underbank cover, and possibly better overbank cover at the end of the growing season. Poor shading is cause of listing 404-d Temperature Impairment. Lots of mallards, but is there nesting habitat? Stable cutbanks. Rock ledges in this canyon create enhanced moisture habitats.

Water Q: 5,2 = 3.5
Hydrogeomorphology: 5,5,5,5,5 = 5
Fish Aquatic Habitat: 4,4,1,5,5,5 = 4
Riparian Vegetation: 5,5,4,5,5,5,3,1 = 33/8 = 4.125
Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat: 2,2,2,5 = 2.75

Average = 3.875

Species List and Notes:

2 Species of Juniper (Utah (osteosperma) and One-Seed (monosperma) taking over remnants of old floodplane from derelict relict cottonwood. dead cottonwoods perched on historic floodplain, but not really that much higher than the new, active floodplane.
Old Gooding Willow

stubby skink in high diversty meso wet meadow with cottonwood (many branched/browsed) sprouting, lots of digging (mole?). Tons of potato bugs. Lupine, Viola nephrophylla, Stellaria, horehound, Oenothera, Horsetail, Clematis, Thalictrum.

Patch-nosed snake (Thamnophis hammondii)
oak gambell.
maiden hair fern.
new mexico olive.
red spiney unknown
jeff reports others
Borage= lapula, mustard, stellaria, rose, cherry with catkin berries (not open yet)
3 species of aquatic plants plus sedge and rush
wax currant
orange gooseberry
skunkbush sumac currant

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Example RSRA's from the Verde Valley, AZ

Examples RSRA's:
(Indicator scores are 1 - 5; 5 is highest)

Lower Camp Verde SRP

Water Quality
1.Algal Growth: 1
2.Channel Shading, Solar Exposure: 2

= 1.5

Hydrogeomorphology (Stream Form)
3.Floodplain Connection and Inundation: 1
4.Vertical Bank Stability: 4
5.Hydraulic Habitat Diversity:5
6.Riparian Area Soil Integrity: 5
7.Beaver Activity: 4

= 3.8

Fish/Aquatic Habitat
8.Riffle-Pool Distribution: 2
9.Underbank Cover: 2
10.Cobble Embeddedness: 2
11.Aquatic Macro-invertebrate Diversity: 5
12.Large Woody Debris: 2
13.Overbank Cover and Terrestrial Invertebrate Habitat: 5

= 3

Riparian Vegetation
14. Lower Riparian Zone Plant Community Structure and Cover: 3
15. Upper Riparian Zone Plant Community Structure and Cover: 3
16. Shrub Demography and Recruitment: 3
17. Tree Demography and Recruitment: 4
18. Non-native Herbaceous Plant Species: 2
19. Non-native Woody Plant Species: 4
20. Mammalian Herbivory (Grazing) Impacts on Ground Cover: 5
21. Mammalian Herbivory (Browsing) Impacts on Shrubs and Small Trees: 1

= 3.125

Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat
22. Shrub Patch Density: 3
23. Mid-Canopy Patch Density: 4
24. Upper Canopy Patch Density: 3
25. Fluvial Habitat Diversity: 4


Overall Average: 3.0

Agua Fria River Below Horseshoe Ranch
Water Quality: 2, 2 = 2
Hydrogeomorphology: 1,4,5,4,1 = 3
Fish/Aquatic Habitat: 3,2,3,5,2,4 = 3.17
Riparian Vegetation: 2,3,3,3,1,5,5,5 = 3.375
Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat: 2,4,2,3 = 2.75

Overall Average: 2.8

Lower Clear Creek

Water Quality: 1,2 = 1.5
Hydrogeomorphology: 1,4,5,5,4 = 3.8
Fish/Aquatic Habitat: 2,2,2,5,2,5 = 3
Riparian Vegetation: 3,3,3,4,2,4,5,1 = 3.1
Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat: 3,4,3,5 = 3.75

Overall Average: 3.0

Friday, May 01, 2009

What is the RSRA?

RSRA, or Rapid Stream-Riparian Assessment, is a tool to quickly assess ecosystem health. The RSRA was developed and intended for medium gradient, medium-sized streams, ie cold-water fisheries on the Colorado Plateau. It is conceptualized as a stratified sample: Stream>Hydrologic Reach>Study Reach>Sample Transects>Indicators.

The 25 "indicators" are used as clues or warning signals to trigger further investigation. The indicators are grouped into 5 categories: the (equally weighted) categories are: 1) Water Quality, 2) Hydrogeomorphology, 3) Fish Aquatic Habitat, 4) Riparian Vegetation, 5) Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat, each of which contains 2 to 7 indicators.

The RSRA is dependent on identifying and understanding hydrogeomorphic context, as each indicator is rated from 1 (completely impacted, no value for wildlife) to 5 (absence of impact from humans). In order to adapt the protocol to differing streams, rather than categorize, the assessment's authors urge the user to only use indicators that are hydrogeomorphically consistent. The philosophy is to imagine the stream as unimpacted (or actually find a nearby Reference Reach) to compare the actual stream to the possible. This philosophy can lead to problems. For example, at Little Ash Creek we decided to ignore the historic floodplane, and base our work for Indicator #3 Floodplain Connection and Unundation on the actual flow regime, not the benches of old Gooding willow that are now campgrounds 5, 10, or 15 feet above the channel and its new braided floodplane. This contradicts the approach taken at Clearwater creek, where the new braided floodplane was considered bankfull, and the high campground terrace was considered the floodplane. Has the campground ever been flooded? Inconsistent assessment of indicators in the field is a problem, but the challenge is to be accurate as well as consistent.

It is also the hope of the authors that the protocol w0uld not be used to compare dissimilar systems (e.g. a high gradient stream to a low gradient stream). Instead, the number values serve to highlight individual stressors/indicators, rather than simplifying all systems into a high/middle/low value health hierarchy. This could be a problem for the way the methodology is currently implemented.

The RSRA is geared toward understanding and assessing wildlife habitat. For example, Indicator 5: Hydraulic Habitat Diversity teaches users to see types of animal habitat, or the world as animals see it. Wildlife need habitat diversity, and disturbed systems are usually simplified to point that certain animals can no longer survive there. So, the criterion for these features is: do they provide unique habitat, without which, a species or host of species would not occur or persist? Some example riparian habitat types include:

sidewater or edgewater : squaw fish habitat, back eddy oxygenated, but slower flow water striders, water bugs. not big enough to be lateral pool because isn't beaver habitat.

lateral pool: builds up a bar between main channel, deep(bigmouth bass, beaver colonize), deep enough to provide cover from predators

slackwater or backwater: water not being flushed, oxygen levels go down, chemistry changes, mosquito can develop, fish can't live here.

high velocity riffles: create oxygenated water. fish eggs require high oxygen, and riffles are usually cobble-floored (cobble is a better substrate for eggs than fine sediments)

low velocity riffle: rolling wave doesn't break

scour pool: focussed flow creates deep water, cover

side channel: must be active, must be connected both upstream and downstream