Last summer, CNHP’s Erick Carlson and I were a two-person team of wetland ecology buffs who spent some plant lD-filled, glorious hours sampling wetlands and riparian areas in our home river basin - the Lower South Platte River Basin. The ‘Lower’ portion of the South Platte refers to the non-mountainous section of the basin, so we surveyed many wetlands and riparian areas in northeast Colorado’s Great Plains.
We sampled two kinds of sites:
- reference examples (or the best we could find) of wetlands and riparian areas as mapped by the 1970’s National Wetlands Inventory (mapping digitized right here at CNHP by Gabrielle Smith and Erick); and
- reference examples of wetlands managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other partners for wildlife habitat diversity and waterfowl use.
Although no sites selected for reference sampling were located in our home city of Fort Collins, we think the random sample of wetlands scheduled for next summer’s portion of this study just may include a few in our backyard.
So what kinds of wetlands were the best of the plains? Well, quite a variety! So enjoy the pictures, and if you like what you see, in the next couple of weeks keep your eyes peeled for our Summer 2013 wetland field technician job search posting on our website!
Though it has been ~40 years since the wetlands of the Lower South Platte basin were mapped, this project is the first of its kind to sample and understand the full range of wetland and riparian diversity across the basin. After a successful summer of surveying 35 reference sites, disturbance ecology proved to be the summer’s mantra. This made for an interesting field season. While landscapes that are less disturbed from anthropogenic effects are the most sought-after for reference sampling, it was a regime of natural disturbance (flooding, beaver activity, wet and dry cycles, etc.) that tied together many of these sites and made them the local gems that they are. Disturbance can be natural, and nature is variable…