Event Title

Climate Change and Riparian Forest Communities: Implications for Small Streams in the Upper Colorado River Basin

Presenter Information

Lindsay Reynolds

Location

USU Eccles Conference Center

Streaming Media

 
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Abstract

Climate change is projected to have an enormous effect on water resources in the western US, with cascading effects on river-dependent organisms. Recent studies show that increasing drought will lead to reduced water in many rivers in the southwestern US. For example, streamflow in the warm season has declined over the last century in the western US and is projected to continue decreasing over the next 100 years. In arid and semi-arid regions of the western US, it is likely that some perennial streams will shift to intermittent flow in response to climate-driven changes in runoff and evapotranspiration. We addressed the following two questions: (1) how will small stream low flows be affected by warmer conditions in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) and (2) how will riparian vegetation respond? To address these questions we (1) modeled stream low flow metrics on ungaged streams in the UCRB and (2) sampled riparian vegetation along a hydrologic gradient (perennial to intermittent) to develop statistical relationships between flow parameters and biotic responses. We found the majority of perennial and weakly intermittent streams that are threatened under warmer conditions to be small, high elevation streams. Further, with our field vegetation data we are able to suggest how riparian plant communities will shift in the future and how managers can draw from these results for restoration planning in the context of climate change.

Comments

Lindsay Reynolds is a riparian ecologist whose research centers on plants, ecohydrology, climate change and invasions. She received her B.A. in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology from Dartmouth College in 2003 and her Ph.D. in Ecology from Colorado State University (CSU) in 2009. She is currently a Research Scientist in the Biology Department at CSU and the USGS Fort Collins Science Center. Recently, she has focused on how river hydrology and geomorphology influence adjacent plant communities, often in the context of future climate changes, river regulation and exotic species invasions in western North America.

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Oct 21st, 9:20 AM Oct 21st, 10:00 AM

Climate Change and Riparian Forest Communities: Implications for Small Streams in the Upper Colorado River Basin

USU Eccles Conference Center

Climate change is projected to have an enormous effect on water resources in the western US, with cascading effects on river-dependent organisms. Recent studies show that increasing drought will lead to reduced water in many rivers in the southwestern US. For example, streamflow in the warm season has declined over the last century in the western US and is projected to continue decreasing over the next 100 years. In arid and semi-arid regions of the western US, it is likely that some perennial streams will shift to intermittent flow in response to climate-driven changes in runoff and evapotranspiration. We addressed the following two questions: (1) how will small stream low flows be affected by warmer conditions in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) and (2) how will riparian vegetation respond? To address these questions we (1) modeled stream low flow metrics on ungaged streams in the UCRB and (2) sampled riparian vegetation along a hydrologic gradient (perennial to intermittent) to develop statistical relationships between flow parameters and biotic responses. We found the majority of perennial and weakly intermittent streams that are threatened under warmer conditions to be small, high elevation streams. Further, with our field vegetation data we are able to suggest how riparian plant communities will shift in the future and how managers can draw from these results for restoration planning in the context of climate change.