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Title: Quantifying the sensitivity of ephemeral streams to land disturbance activities in arid ecosystems at the watershed scale

Abstract

Large areas of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and located in arid regions of the southwestern United States are being considered for the development of utility-scale solar energy facilities. Land-disturbing activities in these desert, alluvium-filled valleys have the potential to adversely affect the hydrologic and ecologic functions of ephemeral streams. Regulation and management of ephemeral streams typically falls under a spectrum of federal, state, and local programs, but scientifically based guidelines for protecting ephemeral streams with respect to land-development activities are largely nonexistent. This study developed an assessment approach for quantifying the sensitivity to land disturbance of ephemeral stream reaches located in proposed solar energy zones (SEZs). The ephemeral stream assessment approach used publicly-available geospatial data on hydrology, topography, surficial geology, and soil characteristics, as well as highresolution aerial imagery. These datasets were used to inform a professional judgment-based score index of potential land disturbance impacts on selected critical functions of ephemeral streams, including flow and sediment conveyance, ecological habitat value, and groundwater recharge. The total sensitivity scores (sum of scores for the critical stream functions of flow and sediment conveyance, ecological habitats, and groundwater recharge) were used to identify highly sensitive stream reaches to informmore » decisions on developable areas in SEZs. Total sensitivity scores typically reflected the scores of the individual stream functions; some exceptions pertain to groundwater recharge and ecological habitats. The primary limitations of this assessment approach were the lack of high-resolution identification of ephemeral stream channels in the existing National Hydrography Dataset, and the lack of mechanistic processes describing potential impacts on ephemeral stream functions at the watershed scale.The primary strength of this assessment approach is that it allows watershed-scale planning for low-impact development in arid ecosystems; the qualitative scoring of potential impacts can also be adjusted to accommodate new geospatial data, and to allow for expert and stakeholder input into decisions regarding the identification and potential avoidance of highly sensitive stream reaches.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
Department of the Interior - Bureau of Land Management
OSTI Identifier:
1392118
DOE Contract Number:  
AC02-06CH11357
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 186; Journal Issue: 11; Journal ID: ISSN 0167-6369
Publisher:
Springer
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Arid ecosystems; Environmental assessment; Ephemeral streams; Land disturbance; Watershed characteristics

Citation Formats

O’Connor, Ben L., Hamada, Yuki, Bowen, Esther E., Grippo, Mark A., Hartmann, Heidi M., Patton, Terri L., Van Lonkhuyzen, Robert A., and Carr, Adrianne E. Quantifying the sensitivity of ephemeral streams to land disturbance activities in arid ecosystems at the watershed scale. United States: N. p., 2014. Web. doi:10.1007/s10661-014-3912-5.
O’Connor, Ben L., Hamada, Yuki, Bowen, Esther E., Grippo, Mark A., Hartmann, Heidi M., Patton, Terri L., Van Lonkhuyzen, Robert A., & Carr, Adrianne E. Quantifying the sensitivity of ephemeral streams to land disturbance activities in arid ecosystems at the watershed scale. United States. doi:10.1007/s10661-014-3912-5.
O’Connor, Ben L., Hamada, Yuki, Bowen, Esther E., Grippo, Mark A., Hartmann, Heidi M., Patton, Terri L., Van Lonkhuyzen, Robert A., and Carr, Adrianne E. Sun . "Quantifying the sensitivity of ephemeral streams to land disturbance activities in arid ecosystems at the watershed scale". United States. doi:10.1007/s10661-014-3912-5.
@article{osti_1392118,
title = {Quantifying the sensitivity of ephemeral streams to land disturbance activities in arid ecosystems at the watershed scale},
author = {O’Connor, Ben L. and Hamada, Yuki and Bowen, Esther E. and Grippo, Mark A. and Hartmann, Heidi M. and Patton, Terri L. and Van Lonkhuyzen, Robert A. and Carr, Adrianne E.},
abstractNote = {Large areas of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and located in arid regions of the southwestern United States are being considered for the development of utility-scale solar energy facilities. Land-disturbing activities in these desert, alluvium-filled valleys have the potential to adversely affect the hydrologic and ecologic functions of ephemeral streams. Regulation and management of ephemeral streams typically falls under a spectrum of federal, state, and local programs, but scientifically based guidelines for protecting ephemeral streams with respect to land-development activities are largely nonexistent. This study developed an assessment approach for quantifying the sensitivity to land disturbance of ephemeral stream reaches located in proposed solar energy zones (SEZs). The ephemeral stream assessment approach used publicly-available geospatial data on hydrology, topography, surficial geology, and soil characteristics, as well as highresolution aerial imagery. These datasets were used to inform a professional judgment-based score index of potential land disturbance impacts on selected critical functions of ephemeral streams, including flow and sediment conveyance, ecological habitat value, and groundwater recharge. The total sensitivity scores (sum of scores for the critical stream functions of flow and sediment conveyance, ecological habitats, and groundwater recharge) were used to identify highly sensitive stream reaches to inform decisions on developable areas in SEZs. Total sensitivity scores typically reflected the scores of the individual stream functions; some exceptions pertain to groundwater recharge and ecological habitats. The primary limitations of this assessment approach were the lack of high-resolution identification of ephemeral stream channels in the existing National Hydrography Dataset, and the lack of mechanistic processes describing potential impacts on ephemeral stream functions at the watershed scale.The primary strength of this assessment approach is that it allows watershed-scale planning for low-impact development in arid ecosystems; the qualitative scoring of potential impacts can also be adjusted to accommodate new geospatial data, and to allow for expert and stakeholder input into decisions regarding the identification and potential avoidance of highly sensitive stream reaches.},
doi = {10.1007/s10661-014-3912-5},
journal = {Environmental Monitoring and Assessment},
issn = {0167-6369},
number = 11,
volume = 186,
place = {United States},
year = {2014},
month = {8}
}

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