SmartRiver GIS

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With an increasing human population and a finite supply of water, management of rivers and their associated ecosystems is becoming an ever-more complicated issue for decisionmakers across the Nation. Our understanding of river systems has improved because of developments in both technology and scientific understanding of ecosystems. Models have been used to predict flow and manage river systems for decades. As our knowledge of ecosystem processes and our ability to collect more precise data increase, we find that we are data rich. However, multiple riverine georeferenced data layers generally do not align to allow comparable results and outputs. Often, differences in the spatio-temporal dimension of existing data cause significant obstacles. The next important step in better managing our natural resources is to effectively combine datasets and multiple model inputs and outputs for an enhanced understanding of these complex systems.

Smart River GIS allows simultaneous views of river hydraulics, species-specific habitat, and fish population simulations, for a better understanding of complex ecological interactions. We used existing data sets from the South Platte River in Colorado to develop a prototype, multi-layered geographic information system (GIS) that resource managers can use to improve their understanding of river ecosystems and make better-informed management decisions.

The field data for this system were collected for a separate, completed research project (Waddle et al., in prep.). Our work focused specifically on aligning these data and various model inputs and outputs into one geospatially referenced database, then developing visualization products to display the information to resource managers.

We combined the following data layers, ensuring consistency in both spatial scale and geographic reference systems: physical river measurements (topography, flow, temperature, and geo-location), habitat characterization and location, and species life history.