Results of 17 years of monitoring at the Los Lunas Habitat Restoration Site, New Mexico
Rebecca Siegle1, David Moore1*, and Tori Barron1*
1Bureau of Reclamation Technical Service Center, Denver, CO
Riparian forests are an important ecosystem in the Desert Southwest.  Within the region, seventy percent of threatened or endangered species are considered riparian obligates and the destruction of riparian habitats has been responsible for the decline of many imperiled species.  Within the Middle Rio Grande, the federally endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus - SWFL) is a focal species that has suffered population declines due to reductions in native riparian habitat quantity and quality.  The Los Lunas Restoration Site (LLRS) was constructed in response to a 2001 Biological Opinion and designed to provide habitat for both the SWFL and the federally endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus).  Designs included partial clearing, bank lowering, tree planting and installation of side channels to provide habitat for both species.  In 2003, monitoring of groundwater and the avian and vegetation communities within the site was initiated by Technical Service Center personnel.  Objectives included determining the success of restoring a productive native riparian community and assessing its suitability for breeding SWFLs.  The western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus - YBCU), federally listed in 2014, was added to this assessment later in the study.  Following 17 years of monitoring, evaluation criteria for the LLRS determined that riparian restoration has been successful.  Plant species composition in both overstory and understory, promoted by a shallow water table, is dominated by native wetland plants.  Exotic species comprise a small percentage of overall vegetative cover.  A diverse bird population with an increasing abundance of mid-story species has developed.  However, LLRS vegetation data have not been comparable to occupied SWFL sites and occupation by breeding SWFLs or YBCUs has not been documented within LLRS. The site does show potential for YBCU habitat, therefore further monitoring, while currently not planned, is recommended.