Vegetation Changes in the Middle Rio Grande Riparian Ecosystem

Jacob Lobato

Tetra Tech Inc., Albuquerque, NM, USA; 


Not unlike many riparian systems throughout the western US, the riparian ecosystem of the Rio Grande in New Mexico is facing increasingly dry conditions and anthropogenic influences which bring challenges such as a deepening water table and fire into the historically mesic system. Dominant vegetation communities of the Albuquerque reach of the Middle Rio Grande were assessed and classified utilizing the methodologies of Hink and Ohmart 2021. The results of this analysis and classification were compared to a previous analysis which utilized the Hink and Ohmart Method in 2005. The results of the comparison analysis show an increase in communities dominated by Rio Grande Cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. wislizeni) and coyote willow (Salix exigua) in areas that have had active management measures put in place, while upland species such as four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens) and sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia), and invasive species such as Siberian elm (Ulmis pumila) have increased in dominance within areas that have not been actively managed within the Albuquerque Reach.  

The presentation will begin with an overview of historic conditions within the Middle Rio Grande Bosque and a brief description of Hink and Ohmart monitoring methodology.  It will then discuss and compare results from the 2005 and 2021 monitoring effort. Adaptations in the vegetation community due to fire and implications for climate change will be discussed. Also, results showing increases in upland and invasive plants have implications for future revegetation efforts in an increasingly xeric riparian ecosystem.