Decision Support Model Development for Habitat Suitability, Risk of Habitat Loss, Treatment Prioritization, and Restoration Potential in Riparian Corridors of the Rio Grande Infested with Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.)
Resource data (habitat structure, condition and suitability; soils; consumptive water use; surface and groundwater hydrology), compiled by various agencies and research entities, exist in the literature, but are highly fragmented and typically generic in applicability. Little effort has been extended to assess, augment and synthesize these diverse and segmented data across land ownership and use boundaries into a multi-agency decision-support framework and tool for field managers to use in management of saltcedar-infested lands.
Research question: Can methods and criteria be developed for habitat suitability classification, risk assessment, treatment prioritization, and restoration potential assessment to serve as models for evaluation of similar riparian ecosystems infested by saltcedar? What resource attribute variables and assessment criteria are most important to decision makers?
Need and Benefit
Focused, prioritized, science-based land treatment will result from development of these decision-support models and and baseline resource mapping. This focused management approach will yield greater water savings via maximized cost-effectiveness resulting from prioritized saltcedar control, habitat protection and enhancement, and multiple use benefits on lands with greatest need, highest habitat value, and most treatment response potential.
This project will augment existing data for soils, surface and groundwater hydrology, vegetation, habitat values and climate with additional, comprehensive sampling of these parameters on the middle Rio Grande in order to generate GIS-based mapping and decision-support criteria for assessing habitat suitability, habitats at risk, treatment prioritization, and restoration potential on riparian sites infested by saltcedar (Tamarix spp.). Evaluation emphasis will focus primarily on designated or suitable habitat for the federally endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), with secondary emphasis on adjacent interface / transitional habitat for other wildlife species. Determination of treatment priorities and rating of restoration potential will also address multi-species habitat conservation and benefits on a plant community (site) basis in light of ecological and biogeophysical constraints imposed by temporal, spatial and hydrologic characteristics of saltcedar infestations.
State-of-the-art sampling design and techniques, remote sensing (including CIR, thermal and/or visible wavelength imagery to detect and correlate saltcedar water or defoliation stress, canopy characteristics, and distribution with site environmental conditions), soils and vegetation inventories, cost:benefit assessment, present and potential land use and management, and statistical analysis will be incorporated into GIS-based depictions and decision support criteria that assess habitat suitability, risk, treatment priority, and restoration potential. Current research results and technology from universities and BOR on quantification of evapotranspiration rates and groundwater salvage will be incorporated into these models to project estimated water savings based on plant community structure and composition, prioritized treatment prescriptions, and projected restoration response toward desired habitat goals.