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Region 4 Science Partner Program: Characterizing and conserving groundwater dependent ecosystems

August, 2016

This project is an interdisciplinary working group focused on collecting, documenting, exchanging, and archiving information about Region 4 (R4) groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs), particularly springs and wetlands.Current partners include Kate Dwire (RMRS), John Proctor (R4 Botanist), Mark Muir (R4 Hydrologist), Cynthia Tait (R4 Aquatic Program Manager), and Jeff Bruggink (R4 Soil Scientist).


Team members are building on work initiated by the USFS Groundwater Program, particularly in promoting the inventory of GDEs using the USFS Level 1 GDE Inventory Field Guide, and continue to work closely with Joe Gurrieri and others members of the Groundwater Program to stay informed on progress in GDE conservation on public lands nationwide. RMRS Research Ecologist Kate Dwire has conducted trainings in the use of the Level 1 protocols to staff on the Ashley and Bridger-Teton National Forests, with travel funds provided by RMRS-R4 Science-Management Partner Program. Improved assessments of GDE resources foster conservation through stronger forest plans, contribute to management strategies, and potentially locate new populations of rare biota (rare plants and spring snails) and other resources.


The team serves as a liaison between Region 4 and their partners including:

  • The Colorado Natural Program utilizes aerial photographs and remote sensing techniques to digitally map GDE wetlands in support of forest plan revision. These maps will serve as the basis for site selection and sampling design of inventories focused on GDE wetlands, including prioritization of site sampling of fens.  
  • The Wyoming Natural Diversity Database are conducting inventories of priority GDE wetlands, with focused documentation of rare plant populations in fens and springs with unique and high biodiversity value. The resulting Rare Plant Survey and EO data will be input to NRIS-threatened-endangered-sensitive species; the GDE level 1 data will be input to the Springs Stewardship Institute (SSI) online database

Researchers and land managers partner to collect groundwater dependent ecosystems data.
Researchers collecting data for the groundwater dependent ecosystems science-management partnership


  • Working with US Forest Service colleagues (USFS Groundwater Program; Region 4 regional, forest, and district-level staff; San Dimas Technology and Development Center), and collaborators from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the SSI, team members proposed to organize and conduct a workshop that presents alternatives for the sustainable development of springs, provides tools for managing GDEs, advances the professional network of GDE advocates, while highlighting the ecological importance of springs.
  • Working with all partners, develop an approach for utilizing wetland maps from Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) in field assessments.
  • Working with SSI, assist in planning a multi-agency workshop to discuss consolidation and archival of GDE field data, geodatabases & maps from CNHP, and other existing information. SSI has received funding for this workshop, which will occur in either spring or fall 2019.


John Proctor - Forest Service - Region 4 - National Forest System
Mark Muir - Forest Service - Region 4 - National Forest System
Cynthia Tait - Forest Service - Region 4 - National Forest System
Jeff Bruggink - Forest Service - Region 4 - National Forest System