Upper Gila River Restoration Planning Project

Dr. Bruce Orr, Principal and Senior Ecologist, presented Stillwater’s ongoing work in the Upper Gila River Basin at the Gila Watershed Partnership monthly meeting on August 14th, 2013. Numerous interested researchers, agency personnel, landowners, and other interested parties were in attendance. Stillwater, along with project partners at UC Santa Barbara, Desert Botanical Garden, Northern Arizona University, USGS, and Utah State University’s Remote Sensing/GIS Laboratory, is conducting an "ecohydrological assessment" to identify suitable locations for long-term, cost-effective riparian restoration and methologies. The Upper Gila Watershed has experienced several notable floods that shifted the river's pathway and scoured vegetation. Flood dynamics will be considered for the restoration efforts and locations.

In addition to mapping flood zones and areas dominated by native vegetation, Stillwater will perform river corridor-scale habitat studies of current conditions to help plan for the arrival of the tamarisk leaf beetle, a biocontrol agent that is rapidly expanding its range and causing widespread damages and even death to tamarisk plants in many southwest watersheds. While there are numerous benefits to tamarisk suppression (including groundwater conservation, native riparian habitat recovery, fire risk reduction), the short-term negative consequences can be detrimental to fish and wildlife species that depend on the shade and habitat that tamarisk provides. Our team of qualified ecologists and hydrologist, including Dr. Bruce Orr and Glen Leverich (geomorphologist), are working with local watershed stakeholders to develop and implement plans to speed the recovery of native riparian vegetation, while maintaining suitable habitat for wildlife and preventing the spread of invasive, non-native species.  

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Posted 4 September 2013