BY ARIELLE ZIONTS FOR NOGALES INTERNATIONAL
Extract: A pristine portion of Sonoita Creek that was discovered last fall is providing local environmentalists with inspiration as they work to restore eroded sections of the stream.
From where the creek intersects with the northeast side of Patagonia Lake to a small waterfall a little more than a half-mile upstream, the waterway is fast moving and highly eroded. But members of the organization Friends of Sonoita Creek (FOSC) and Peter Stacey, a professor at the University of New Mexico specializing in streams in the southwest, discovered that above the waterfall – technically referred to as a “head cut,” meaning an abrupt vertical drop caused by erosion – the water slowly meanders through multiple branches level with the ground.
Stacey explained in a phone conversation that in his 20 years of field work across the southwest he’s only seen a handful of streams – including this portion of Sonoita Creek – “functioning the way it used to ... before humans had an impact on it.”
“It’s extremely rare,” he said. “It’s an example of what all of us are shooting for when we do restoration work.”
On Tuesday morning, the Patagonia-based FOSC led a group of people to observe the differences above and below the head cut. The excursion also included a demonstration of stream monitoring techniques and discussion of efforts to preserve the pristine section of the creek, reverse existing erosion and prevent further damage to ensure that the stream continues as a source of groundwater.
Kathy West, a 61-year-old retiree from Patagonia, described the lower portion of the creek as a “muddy mess.” Above the head cut, she said, “It was a little bit wilder up here and the stream was wider and it was very, very scenic.”
“It’s what it should be,” West said, noting that she could see bugs and flowers growing near the upper portion of the stream. (...)
Food chain restoration for pollinators: Regional habitat recovery strategies involving protected areas of the Southwest
Authors: Steve Buckley, National Park Service and Gary Paul Nabhan, University of Arizona Southwest Center
Abstract: The steep declines over the last quarter century of wild pollinators in the Southwest among native bees, monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, and nectar-feeding bats have come during a time of accelerated climate change, are likely due to a variety of stresses interacting with climatic shifts. Nevertheless, there is mounting evidence that the declining availability and altered timing of floral resources along “nectar corridors” accessible to pollinators involves climatic shifts as a serious stressor that had been previously underestimated. Longitudinal studies from both urban heat islands and rural habitats in Southwestern North America suggest that the peak flowering of many wildflowers serving as floral resources for pollinators is occurring 3 to 5 weeks earlier in the spring than a century ago, leaving “phenological gaps” in nectar resource availability for certain pollinators. To avoid the threat of what Dobson and others have termed “food web collapse”, we have initiated ecological restoration efforts in semi-arid zones that attempt to a) assemble more resilient plant-pollinator food chains and b) hydrologically restore watercourses to ensure that water scarcity will be less likely to disrupt re-assembled food chains in the face of droughts, catastrophic floods and other correlates of global climate change. We recommend “bottom-up food chain restoration” strategies for restoring nectar corridors in protected areas on or near geopolitical and land management boundaries in all regions, but particularly in the “Southwest” or U.S./Mexico desert border states. We highlight the binational and multi-cultural workshops we have facilitated to communicate about and initiate restoration of mutualistic relationships among plants, pollinators, and people to protected area managers on both sides of the border.
Read the comprehensive study
"A Restoration Economy Seeks to Take Root in the Borderlands" - an interview of BR executive director David Seibert for The Weekly Green on KXCI Community Radio
Listen to the Weekly Green's interview of Borderlands Restoration's Executive Director, David Seibert to learn more about the innovative work of Borderlands Restoration and its partnering organizations including the Borderlands Restoration Leadership Institute.
"When paired with detention structures that stabilize wet or dry systems, native plants effectively knit the landscape together and root our work in place. " - David Seibert
An animation project by Chloe Fandel about water harvesting in stream channels.
How has the landscape in the dry grasslands of Arizona changed over time? How have humans affected the stream channels?
In this region, most groundwater is recharged through the sediment at the bottom of stream channels. So how might changes in the channel affect the rates of infiltration (floodwater at the surface soaking into the ground) and recharge (the infiltrated water traveling down to the water table and being stored)?
This video is based on background research for Chloe Fandel's MS Thesis:
"The Effect of Gabion Construction on Infiltration in Ephemeral Streams". The full thesis can be accessed here: http://search.proquest.com/openview/9...
Low-tech rock structures called gabions are commonly used in dryland stream channels to reduce erosion, slow floodwaters, and increase infiltration. Gabions may also increase water availability for riparian vegetation, and increase the duration of surface flow in ephemeral stream channels. However, their effects on infiltration and recharge are not well-understood. This study tested low-cost methods for easily quantifying the total infiltration induced by gabion construction in an ephemeral stream channel, over the course of a single flow event. We used well-established methods to find point infiltration fluxes from subsurface temperature time-series. Unique to this study, we then upscaled these measurements to the gabion’s entire area of influence using time-lapse photo data, which recorded the onset of flow and the duration of ponding. For a flow lasting ~5 hours, we ran 225 model scenarios, estimating that a single gabion could have increased the total infiltrated volume in the channel reach between it and the next gabion by as much as 255% or as little as 0%, but the most likely scenario is a 10.8% increase. We found the photo data to be invaluable in obtaining these estimates, and in understanding the dynamics of a remote field site. Future work would benefit from more precise measurements of point infiltration fluxes and better records of ponded surface area over time. If these improvements are made and our estimates can be replicated reliably, they would suggest that gabions are a more powerful restoration and management tool than previously understood.
More information at the USGS Aridland Water Harvesting Study:
The Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation works to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the US/Mexican borderlands through land protection, habitat restoration and wildlife reintroduction.
In an effort to reconcile ecological restoration and cattle ranching, CLO is experimenting holistic grazing in the ranch el Valle, in Northern Sonora, MX. In the ranch, land had been resting without grazing for 20 years but clumps of grasses were dying out and the overall grass to bare soil ratio was not improving. CLO is trying a new form of grazing to see if by disturbing and fertilizing the surface of the soil, the situation can be improved.
The cattle are used as a tool: the hoof action breaks the soil’s crust, manure adds nutrients and the cows’ saliva while eating stimulates plant growth. In order to prevent overgrazing, the cattle are moved 4 times a day and each section grazed rest for two rainy season (18 months). Many areas of the ranch are kept for wildlife only.
As the old adage goes - ‘the more we know about the past, the better we’ll be prepared for the future’.
It was an honor and pleasure to hear a morning of recollections about water history in the Sonoita Creek Watershed with Patagonia's community members. We learned of the lush environment that sustained the Sonorasaurus thompsoni, a 49 ft long and 27 ft tall dinosaur that lived in our neighboring watershed in the middle of the Cretaceous period. We explored living memories with attendants who shared stories of bucolic picnics on the banks of the Sonoita Creek and wild west standoffs in the 1930s over blowing up the local bridge to prevent rising waters from flooding the town.
The Borderlands Institute, together with Friends of Sonoita Creek and the Flood and Flow Committee had the opportunity to introduce the science, models and planning processes which are being developed to better inform decision-making in our home watershed. Responses from the audience regarding which topics they view as important will direct future research of the institute, ensuring what we do is useful to the people who work, live and play in our beloved borderlands region.
A STORY BY KRISTA SCHLYER, PUBLISHED by Next Generation of Sonoran Desert Researchers (N-Gen)
Borderlands are special spaces where cultures meet and mix, where diverse communities blend within the overlapping edges of two worlds. This is especially true in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands because the region lies along a natural boundary as well as a geopolitical border.
Extract: Where the United States meets Mexico, a 2,000-mile stretch of land bridges the tropical and temperate zones. Here jaguars and ocelots share the landscape with their northerly cousins, the cougar and bobcat. Green jays, Altamira orioles and elegant trogons perch side-by-side on mesquite, ebony, and cottonwood branches with northern cardinals and mockingbirds. This is a landscape of wild surprise, shared equitably by the north and south of the natural world.
This is a landscape of wild surprise, shared equitably by the north and south of the natural world. The borderlands harbor some of North America’s rarest wild species and oldest human cultures, descendants of the Hohokam, Lipan-Apache and Spanish colonial families – all of whom predate the United States’ existence as a nation.
These lands are home to Sonoran pronghorn, prairie dogs, black bears, and gray wolves; they contain some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the continent. More than 450 rare species live here – some cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. At least 700 neotropical birds, mammals, and insects migrate through the borderlands each year. Like the human migrants who pass through this world between worlds, they seek safety, a future, survival.
But all of these borderlands treasures have been facing the eroding consequences of policies that prioritize large-scale construction of walls and other infrastructure, and that disrupt lives and divide the landscape. Abundant evidence has shown over the past decade that these barriers do not stop people. But they have destroyed and fragmented rare habitats, blocked migration corridors for endangered species, undercut the borderlands economy, and, along with a policy of militarization that dates to the early 1990s, they have led to the deaths of more than 6,000 human migrants.
(...) Read the full article
The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at Northern Arizona University ( DDCSP@NAU ) works to grow leaders for a conservation field that is functional, relevant, and just by embracing diversity, honoring different voices and perspectives, and changing the conservation field’s norms and culture to influence and expand how conservation is practiced.
On Jan 5, 2017, the Doris Duke Scholars visited the Arizona-Sonora border region to learn about conservation challenges in the region, and the grassroots initiatives being implemented to address them. Borderlands Restoration introduced them to this incredibly beautiful and complexe region - 'one of the most biologically diverse, yet economically depressed regions of the U.S-Mexico borderlands' - and shared its passion for habitat restoration, community engagement, and sustainable development. The scholars toured Deep Dirt Farm Institute to learn about integrating sustainable food systems with habitat and wildlife protection, and visited the border wall located on the property of a local rancher. Throughout the day the students collected video footage that would be later used to create these films. A Navajo production company, Paper Rocket Productions, was enlisted by the DDCSP to conduct a one-day workshop on making a “movie with a message” using the footage collected at Borderlands. The learning objective for this activity was for students to be able to communicate conservation challenges, and the work being done to address them, through their personal lens of identity and experience.
By David Seibert
The word economy emerges from French and Latin and references “management of the house.” This type of inquiry helps us ask a critical question: How might we best form decisions and take action in the house in which we live? Not coincidentally, and vital to BRLI work, are its parallels with the term ecology, literally “logic of the house.” How exactly are the parts of our house arranged, how do they function, and what parts are at shared risk to the inhabitants?
In order to begin to answer such questions, BRLI works to explore and activate restoration ecologies at fundamental scales, even prior to consideration of the term’s monetary aspects. For the entirety of human history (and in the opinions of many researchers, the primary reason that humans still exist at all), an economy has functioned as a system of exchange, no matter the ideas or objects exchanged. And systems of exchange depend strongly upon relationships so that they may continue—patterns of expectation, responsibility (the ability to respond), and obligation. This is as true for systems in which people pay for services according to agreement, as it is for hummingbirds that somehow coordinate their northward migrations with sequences of blooming plants that they need for food, and that in turn “require” the birds’ pollination services in order to set seed and reproduce.
A brief example will help illustrate the human side of the potentials within systems of exchange and relationship, of restoration economies, that are deliberately treated and nurtured as such. A typical landscaper with tools and a vehicle might or might not be considered part of a restoration economy. Certainly there are clients, work done on the ground to facilitate the flow of water, reduce weeds, and improve safety for the client’s house, all within the “house” of the earth. This person might participate in a system of relationships with clients and other practitioners, all restoring function to the landscape and fulfilling the client’s desires. But what about the owner of the local gas station? This person might be considered far outside a restoration economy because he provides thus-far unsustainable fuel that pollutes ecosystems. Or, he might be considered part of such an economy because he provides fuel for the landscaper’s truck, enabling him to complete valuable work although it’s expensive and supplies are sporadic in this scenario.
By considering both deliberation of effort and intention within the system of exchanges and relationships, however, we can strengthen the concept and its effective application. What if the landscaper’s day looked something more like this: After a full day of building water-harvesting structures and planting native plants to support pollinators on a degraded landscape—work which has been designed as part of a complementary system of exchange and relation, one that incorporates the worker’s need for monetary income as part of the larger system—the truck owner deliberately and with full intention chooses to fill up his gas tank at the local, expensive gas station with an unpredictable supply. Why? Because it has been agreed that tending the larger system and its human, non-human, and even abiotic parts in tandem might just create greater resilience for the whole.
Perhaps, with this form of relationship in place, the station owner increases his supplies of fuel because he knows that the worker needs it and will buy it (due to the increased predictability within the system afforded by an active restoration project that requires trucks and people working), and the worker agrees to pay higher prices in order to avoid long drives to other places, but also to keep one of his community members intact as part of the larger system--but also because the restoration economy has provided a platform for people to rethink not only how they relate to places and how to make a living by caring for them, but how they relate to and depend upon one another for many kinds of support at the same time.
By Oliver Lysaght, Laura M. Norman, Richard Pritzlaff, David Seibert, and H. Ron Pulliam
(ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Darius Semmens, Ken Bagstad, Kelly Mott-LaCroix, Dave Ellis...)
Abstract: The Sonoita Creek Watershed is bound by the Patagonia and Santa Rita Mountains, where surface water flows westerly, eventually draining into the Santa Cruz River. Over 1000 people live, work, and play in the Sonoita Creek watershed, all with varying opinions about what is important to them. Ecosystem services, including those associated with healthy, biologically diverse natural habitats such as forests, urban green spaces, wetlands, grasslands, and rivers, provide natural benefits to people in a variety of forms. In order to better understand how people value ecological restoration and a restoration economy, we have developed a survey which is currently being disseminated and which seeks to gain insight into the values residents of the Sonoita Creek Watershed place on provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services. Surveyed topics include: residents’ economic relationship to water; attitudes towards, and participation in, activities in the Sonoita Creek watershed; familiarity with terminology; preferences for resource management; and a spatially-explicit identification of where cultural values arise within the jurisdiction. Our end goal is to develop input for a regional decision-making tool called, “Social Values for Ecosystem Services” (SolVES), which uses GIS to assess, map, and quantify the social values assigned by stakeholders to ecosystem services. Insights from this survey will guide watershed management in the Sonoita Creek Watershed and strengthen restoration efforts via community participation.