Browsing Hydrology and Water Resources in Arizona and the Southwest, Volume 44 (2015) by Authors
WATERSHED RESTORATION EFFORTS AT HART PRAIRIE IN NORTHERN ARIZONAKursky, Joshua; Tecle, Aregai; Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ (Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science, 2015-04-18)Hart Prairie is a high-elevation upland riparian ecosystem on the west slope of the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona. The location is unique, not only as an upland riparian area in the semi-arid Southwest, but also for having a wet meadow ecosystem dominated by Bebb willow (Salix bebbiana). The ecosystem has experienced a high degree of change since the time of Euro-American settlement. Along with fire suppression, increased wild ungulate herbivory rates, and conifer encroachment into a historically short-grass prairie, several humaninduced changes have been made to the topography of the watershed. Stock tanks, an earthen berm with associated diversion channels, and a road that cuts perpendicularly across the direction of water flow near the base of the watershed have contributed to the altered drainage patterns and the decreased water availability to the flora and fauna in the area. As a result, the Bebb willows and the associated meadow vegetation are at risk. Most of the willows, which constitute the majority of the canopy in the ecosystem, are at a decadent, over-mature stage that allows a limited recruitment of younger plants (Maschinski 1991, Waring 1992). Under these conditions, the plant community may die off leading to the loss of this rare riparian area forever. Research on restoration efforts have been undertaken since the mid-1990s on The Nature Conservancy’s Hart Prairie Preserve and the adjacent US Forest Service Fern Mountain Botanical Area. This paper summarizes the efforts that have been made; most of which targeted to improve the low germination rates of willow seeds, and to restore the geomorphology and surface flow patterns to their pre-disturbance conditions.