What effects do rock structures & other in-channel restoration techniques have on the surrounding vegetative community? These questions are being investigated as part of the Arid Lands Water Harvesting Project, a larger inter-disciplinary project headed by Dr. Laura Norman of the USGS, which combines hydrology, geophysics and vegetation ecology to understand the effects of watershed restoration on the landscape. USGS scientist Natalie R. Wilson developed and implemented a protocol for monitoring the short-term response of vegetation surrounding rock structures and in control sites. Sites included a variety of stream channel types and biotic communities and were measured across a 3-year period. A long-term vegetation response monitoring protocol was also developed and will be implemented in year 5 if funding permits.
In 2017 BRLI was able to both directly support the project and further the development of the fellowship program by supporting a BRLI fellow, Allegra Mount, to accompany Natalie as a research assistant. Allegra gained valuable experience in implementing monitoring protocols and honed her regional botany skills across a 3 month field season. You can read about Allegra's experiences in her blog post.
The protocol developed for this research project involves setting up a precise grid across the site, made replicable by careful data-taking and duplication over different years of degree markings. A nested quadrat is then used to assess vegetation frequency in a randomly determined, and annually replicated, location. The provisional protocol is available for viewing by contacting Natalie directly and will be detailed in a future publication.
Results will be available through the USGS. We're looking forward to seeing how the analysis shakes out!