This year, three of our interns (Oliver Ly, William West & Laura Nolier) volunteered to map the wet and dry sections of the Babacomari River - the main tributary to the San Pedro River within the Sierra Vista Subwatershed. Alongside Willie Sommers, Lucy Hyatt, Angela Garcia, Pierre Jouin and Kathy Collins, they walked through riparian grasslands and along Cottonwood-Willow Riparian Galleries, marking the presence of water using a GPS to identify the quantity of baseflow present in the river at the driest time of the year.
About the Initiative
Many people in the arid Southwest care about the fate of perennial streams and their associated riparian communities. The loss of flows in streams and rivers has social, economic, and ecological consequences, so managers and concerned citizens seek ways to track their status.
Every year on the third Saturday in June, The Nature Conservancy invites people to walk or ride horses along desert streams and map where the streams have surface flow and where they are dry. With more than a decade’s worth of data, this work is helping scientists and managers better understand and manage our riparian and aquatic habitats. The data have been consistently collected at the end of the dry summer months, right before the monsoon rains typically begin.
Wet/dry mapping has been used to:
The Nature Conservancy has conducted wet/dry mapping for more than a decade on the San Pedro River and its tributary streams. Data from the first twelve years of wet/dry mapping in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) reveal that wetted length varies from year to year, but the river hasn’t significantly changed overall. That’s good news, and suggests that conservation efforts by public and private stakeholders have made a difference.
Wet/dry mapping turns a walk through the cottonwood forest into meaningful science. Participants in the past have included ranchers, realtors, regulatory agencies, environmentalists, City Councilmen, children, and reporters. It gives interested citizens a chance to learn more about their rivers and get their feet wet in the ecosystem. Along the way, mapping volunteers have encountered species such as coatimundi, mountain lion, leopard frogs, bear, Gila monsters, bobcats, gray hawks, and longfin dace.
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