Aquatic/Riparian/Wetland Ecosystem Assessments


Trappers Lake with MountainsThe aquatic, riparian and wetland resources in the Rocky Mountain Region constitute a rare and extremely important set of resources. The water component of these ecosystems is extremely valuable from a physical, biological, and social standpoint. In order to manage these resources in a responsible manner, it is imperative that we understand how these ecosystems function, what the impacts to them are, and their distribution across the landscape.

Hanging Lake with vinesThe Aquatic Riparian and Wetland assessment (ARWA) project was developed with the management of these ecosystems in mind. A team of Forest Service and highly respected University scientists were intervened to develop a process that would address specific issues related to ARW management. The Conceptual Framework and Protocols for Conducting Multiple Scale Aquatic, Riparian, and Wetland Ecological Assessments and the Anthropogenic Influences used in Conducting Multiple Scale Aquatic, Riparian, and Wetland Ecological Assessments were painstakingly developed to provide a pathway for accomplishing the assessments. These protocols not only provide the methodologies for conducting ARWA’s but also are important educational manuscripts with current literature and science.

 Bighorn National Forest-cliffsThe first assessment to be completed was for the Bighorn National Forest and surrounding landscape (Introduction and Ecological Driver Analysis - Report 1 of 3; Anthropogenic Influences Report - Report 2 of 3; and Ecological Driver Analysis and Anthropogenic Influence Results: Synthesis and Discussion - Report 3 of 3). GIS datasets and methods used are described in the GIS and Modelling Procedures for Evaluating Anthropegenic Influences for these reports. This assessment represents a landmark in conducting this type of assessment, and is currently being used for a number of management related topics.

The GMUG and San Juan National Forests in southwest Colorado are currently finishing assessments for that portion of the state and will be added to this web page shortly.

Presentations on topics related to the ARWA have been presented by David Winters and Dennis Staley and several professional Society meetings and numerous Forest Service and other agency meetings. Currently, three graduate students are incorporating the results of this project into their studies to validate assumptions associated with the ARW model.

While considerable interest has been expressed both within Region 2 and several other regions of the Forest Service to continue this process, budget limitations may not allow for the continuation of this project.