Historical analysis of riparian vegetation change in response to shifting management objectives on the Middle Rio Grande

Roy E. Petrakis, Willem J.D. Van Leeuwen, Miguel L. Villarreal, Paul Tashjian, Regina Dello Russo, Christopher A. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Riparian ecosystems are valuable to the ecological and human communities that depend on them. Over the past century, they have been subject to shifting management practices to maximize human use and ecosystem services, creating a complex relationship between water policy, management, and the natural ecosystem. This has necessitated research on the spatial and temporal dynamics of riparian vegetation change. The San Acacia Reach of the Middle Rio Grande has experienced multiple management and river flow fluctuations, resulting in threats to its riparian and aquatic ecosystems. This research uses remote sensing data, GIS, a review of management decisions, and an assessment of climate to both quantify how riparian vegetation has been altered over time and provide interpretations of the relationships between riparian change and shifting climate and management objectives. This research focused on four management phases from 1935 to 2014, each highlighting different management practices and climate-driven river patterns, providing unique opportunities to observe a direct relationship between river management, climate, and riparian response. Overall, we believe that management practices coupled with reduced surface river-flows with limited overbank flooding influenced the compositional and spatial patterns of vegetation, including possibly increasing non-native vegetation coverage. However, recent restoration efforts have begun to reduce non-native vegetation coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Climate fluctuation
  • Land cover change
  • Remote sensing
  • Riparian ecosystems
  • River management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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