Hiawatha National Forest Riparian Inventory: A Case Study

Friday, 19 December 2014
Sinan Ayad Abood, USDA Forest Service, Vallejo, CA, United States
Riparian areas are dynamic, transitional ecotones between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems with well-defined vegetation and soil characteristics. Riparian areas offers wildlife habitat and stream water quality, offers bank stability and protects against erosions, provides aesthetics and recreational value, and other numerous valuable ecosystem functions. Quantifying and delineating riparian areas is an essential step in riparian monitoring, riparian management/planning and policy decisions, and in preserving its valuable ecological functions. Previous approaches to riparian areas mapping have primarily utilized fixed width buffers. However, these methodologies only take the watercourse into consideration and ignore critical geomorphology, associated vegetation and soil characteristics. Other approaches utilize remote sensing technologies such as aerial photos interpretation or satellite imagery riparian vegetation classification. Such techniques requires expert knowledge, high spatial resolution data, and expensive when mapping riparian areas on a landscape scale. The goal of this study is to develop a cost effective robust workflow to consistently map the geographic extent and composition of riparian areas within the Hiawatha National Forest boundary utilizing the Riparian Buffer Delineation Model (RBDM) v3.0 and open source geospatial data. This approach recognizes the dynamic and transitional natures of riparian areas by accounting for hydrologic, geomorphic and vegetation data as inputs into the delineation process and the results would suggests incorporating functional variable width riparian mapping within watershed management planning to improve protection and restoration of valuable riparian functionality and biodiversity.