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Watershed Watch Community Science

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How do we Measure the Health of Riparian Areas

July 23, 2020

physical, biological, chemical healthRiparian “health” is defined here as a set of environmental conditions that result in the long-term sustainability of the riparian habitat. The quality of the riparian habitat refers to how well it supplies the physical, chemical and biological needs of the organisms living there. Riparian ecosystem structure and function respond to both abiotic and biotic forces, and this method focuses on 12 indicators of the health of these forces, ranging from vegetation cover to streambed geology. The method applies the 12 criteria to numerically evaluate riparian habitat using geomorphological and biological parameters. Each criterion is semi-quantitatively evaluated on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 the healthiest and 1 the least healthy. This approach is based upon systematic sampling by the authors in numerous watersheds in New Mexico.

A Riparian Zone is a specific ecosystem that is at the interface between land and a river or stream.