Basin Riparian Ecosystems
About the GBEM Project
Problem Statement :
Riparian ecosystems constitute a particularly vital resource in the arid Great Basin. Highly valued for livestock forage, recreation sites, and water for agricultural uses, they also provide critical habitat for
terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and support most of the region's biodiversity. Because of their many uses, riparian areas in the Great Basin have been extensively exploited - over 50% are in poor ecological condition.
One of the major problems in Great Basin watersheds has been stream incision. Many riparian corridors have exhibited major episodes of stream incision during the past 150-200 years. Changes in stream patterns and dimensions have occurred and, where incised, streams have been isolated from their floodplains.
The size of stream-associated riparian ecosystems has decreased, and significant changes in the species composition of riparian areas has occurred. Much of the recent degradation in these systems can be attributed to human-caused disturbance, including over grazing by livestock, road construction in the valley bottoms, mining activities, recreation, and alteration of upland ecosystems.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the response of the watersheds and riparian ecosystems to both natural and human disturbance is being significantly influenced by both past and present climate change processes (Chambers and others 1998).
Restoring and maintaining the integrity of watersheds and the riparian areas they support requires understanding the effects of both natural and human-caused disturbance and the potential for ecosystem recovery. It also requires understanding the linkages between climate change processes and the effects of disturbance.
The Great Basin Interdisciplinary Research and Management Project was initiated in 1994 to address the problems associated with Great Basin watersheds and riparian ecosystems (Chambers
Overall Objective :
The overall objective of the project is to achieve a better understanding of the structure and functioning of
watersheds and riparian ecosystems and watersheds within the central Great Basin, and to develop guidelines for maintaining or restoring their integrity.
Organization and Management :
The GBEMP is an interdisciplinary
ecosystem management project (Research Work Unit 4655) that is being conducted by the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Reno Forestry Sciences Laboratory, located on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.
The objectives of the GBEMP parallel those of the Ecology, Paleoecology, and
Restoration of Great Basin Watersheds unit (RWU 4252) that is also housed on the
UNR campus. Close collaborators are the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest based in Sparks, NV and the Stream Systems Technology Center located in Fort Collins, CO. The Team Leader is Dr. Jeanne Chambers, a research ecologist at the Reno Lab.
Research partners include the University of Nevada, Reno; the Nevada Biodiversity Initiative;
Stanford University; Utah State University; Indiana University, Purdue University at Indianapolis; Western Carolina University; Lafayette University; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Agriculture Research Service. Other agencies involved include the USGS Biological Research Division, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Service.
To facilitate coordination and disseminate results, yearly field tours are held in June and research reviews are conducted during the fall.