Dr. Rebecca Brown
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Riparian systems of the dryland western United States provide critical ecosystem functions such as diverse habitat for numerous species, flood attenuation and essential water storage in water-limited environments. These systems have experienced long term disturbance from anthropogenic activities including the grazing of livestock in dryland riparian systems and near extirpation of a keystone riparian species, Castor canadensis (beaver). However, increasing frequency of large-scale wildfires and climate change driven weather is altering the severity and scale of riparian disturbance. Beaver restoration has been gaining use to address long term riparian disturbances, yet little is understood regarding the impact of restored beaver activity on recently burned riparian systems. The objective of this study is to determine the interactions between beaver populations, large scale wildfire and subsequent erosion events in grazed riparian systems of the Methow River watershed, north central Washington. A fully factorial study comparing vegetation, water quality and channel cross-sections of burned and not burned stream reaches, with beaver presence and without, was conducted in 2018. Our research indicates increased vegetation diversity and nutrient storage and greater connectivity between stream and floodplain in beaver occupied, burned riparian systems. By studying interacting variables of fire, stream channel erosion and beaver activity in grazed systems, more effective and holistic approaches to adaptive ecological and economic management will emerge. Results from this research will be used by public land managers to improve and restore riparian function and management after wildfire for ecological and economical resilience in dryland western ecosystems.
Whipple, Alexa S., "Riparian Resilience in the Face of Interacting Disturbances" (2019). 2019 Symposium. 5.
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