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Long-term change in perennial vegetation along the Colorado river in Grand Canyon national park (1889-2010)

January 1, 2011

Long-term monitoring data are difficult to obtain for high-value resource areas, particularly in remote parts of national parks. One long-used method for evaluating change uses ground-based repeat photography to match historical images of landscapes. River expeditions that documented a proposed railroad route through Grand Canyon with large-format photographs occurred in 1889 and 1890. A total of 452 images from those expeditions are still in existence, and these were matched as closely as possible from December 1989 through March 1992. In 2010 and 2011, we are repeating these matches 120 years after the originals and 20 years after the first matches. This repeat photography provides visual information that can be interpreted for changes in terrestrial and riparian ecosystems along the river corridor, including change in the desert plant assemblages related to increasing winter low temperatures and severe drought. The riparian ecosystem, which originally consisted of native species established along the stage of frequent floods, has increased in area, density, and biomass as both nonnative and native species have become established following flow regulation by Glen Canyon Dam. The original and matched images provide the basis for one element of a robust monitoring program for the effects of climate change on ecosystem resources.

Publication Year 2011
Title Long-term change in perennial vegetation along the Colorado river in Grand Canyon national park (1889-2010)
Authors R. H. Webb, Jayne Belnap, M.L. Scott, Todd C. Esque
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Park Science
Index ID 70032701
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program; Southwest Biological Science Center