Field-based evaluations of sampling techniques to support long-term monitoring of riparian ecosystems along wadeable streams on the Colorado Plateau

Product Type: 

Open-file Report

Year: 

2007

Author(s): 

Scott, M.L., and E.W. Reynolds

Suggested Citation: 

Scott, M.L., and E.W. Reynolds. 2007. Field-based evaluations of sampling techniques to support long-term monitoring of riparian ecosystems along wadeable streams on the Colorado Plateau. Open-File Report 2007-1266. U.S. Geological Survey. 57 p.

To better plan for and implement long-term ecological monitoring, we measured riparian vegetation and fluvial geomorphic features at pilot study sites on four wadeable perennial stream reaches, representative of drainages across the Colorado Plateau. Our primary objectives were to (1) collect field data, (2) evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of various ecological measures and measurement techniques for riparian ecosystems, and (3) use field-based sampling to inform and refine the development of standard operating procedures for use in implementing integrated, long-term monitoring of riparian ecosystems. Ultimately, this work was aimed at providing NPS staff with some of the information and methods needed to design and implement long-term monitoring of NPS riparian resources, which is both relevant to management, and fully operational within institutional resource constraints.

Our results suggest that selecting sampling reaches and establishing a sampling frame of 11 transects, across a range of stream types, is feasible given a limited set of decision rules. A distinctive feature of richness across all sites was the high percentage of rare species, defined here as species having a single occurrence at a site. Rare species represented from 33 percent to 47 percent of the species total across the four pilot sites. Our data show that the two smallest quadrat sizes, 0.01 m2 and 0.1 m2, rarely had any species that occurred in the desired frequency range and can be omitted from the monitoring protocol. Few species fell within the 30�70 percent range in the 1-m2 quadrats, but this quadrat size appears to be useful at the Tsaile Creek (CACH) site. We recommend continuing to collect information at the 1-m2 scale and re-evaluating its usefulness after more data are available from different types of sites. The 10-m2 quadrat is adequate for monitoring changes in frequencies of very common species at all sites. Based on pilot study results, we conclude that at sites with low total species numbers (< 60 species), 40�60, 10-m2 quadrats, would be sufficient to characterize overall species diversity for relatively common species. At sites with higher total numbers of species (> 100), 60�80, 10-m2 quadrats would be required to characterize overall species diversity. Rare species of interest should be monitored using alternative approaches, such as a site inventory and/or mapping (see Elzinga and others, 1998). A large number of the systematically placed 10-m2 quadrats span two or more geomorphic surfaces, especially adjacent to the channel. This makes resolution of species affinities with distinct geomorphic landforms difficult. Thus, we provide an amendment to improve characterization of herbaceous and shrub species on narrow, near-channel surfaces by sampling additional 0.5-m by 1-m quadrats on those surfaces. It appears that for sites in narrow valley settings where riparian zones average less than approximately 40 m, the number of 10-m2 quadrats systematically placed on 11 transects will not provide shrub cover estimates at 20 percent precision. In such cases, additional sample reaches should be added in order to attain a minimum of 130 to 140 10-m2 shrub quadrats...