Restoration of riparian zones - A decision support system

Muzaffar Eusuff, Amro Helwa, Kevin Lansey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Riparian zones in arid regions have high groundwater tables that allow a variety of plant species to thrive. These zones are critical habitat due to the mix and density of vegetation as compared to the surrounding areas that have limited water supplies and deep groundwater tables. Many riparian zones have been impacted by human intervention. Often, groundwater levels have been lowered due to groundwater pumping. As a result, riparian vegetation has been detrimentally affected. Thus, management of riparian zones requires consideration of groundwater and surface conditions. These considerations are particularly important during restoration planning of disturbed zones. Here, restoration is defined as replanting of natural vegetation. However, as vegetation is planted evapotranspiration (ET) rates change as a function of the type and location of vegetation. ET rates, in turn, affect groundwater levels and plant survivability. Due to the strong interaction between vegetation and groundwater levels, the selection and survivability of different plant species depends upon the type and their distribution in the riparian zone. A decision support system (RRZ-DSS - Restoration of Riparian Zones - Decision Support System) has been developed to assist managers make decision regarding the plant distribution for a riparian restoration project. The goal of the DSS is to assist the modeler in identifying a distribution of plant species that will survive and maximize their internal objective. Alternatively, it can be used to study the impact of groundwater pumping on a prescribed plant distribution. The DSS consists of visualization, groundwater simulation, and knowledge of plant characteristics. The water/riparian zone management decision process begins with the development and calibration of a groundwater model that reflects field conditions and can model impacts of changes in evaporation losses and groundwater pumping scenarios. MODXX, a finite element groundwater model, is incorporated in the DSS to meet this need. The groundwater model is linked with other analysis tools using a Visual Basic interface. This interface provides push button execution of the various tools. To analyze the impact and viability of vegetation distributions in the riparian zone, a graphical user interface that is built around ArcView GIS (Geographic Information System) is used to provide the layout and types of vegetation within the riparian zone. Once defined, evaporation rates and extinction depths for each vegetation type are passed to the groundwater model. The groundwater response is then computed. The resulting groundwater levels are then passed back to the GIS. Based on the root depth and the groundwater levels, a graphic display of plant viabilities is presented. The modeler may then modify the layout to examine alternative planting configurations. The system has been structured to study restoration alternatives in Bingham Cienega in Southern Arizona.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIntegrated Surface and Ground Water Management
PublisherAmerican Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)078440562X, 9780784405628
StatePublished - 2001
EventSpecialty Symposium on Integrated Surface and Ground Water Management at the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress 2001 - Orlando, FL, United States
Duration: May 20 2001May 24 2001

Publication series

NameIntegrated Surface and Ground Water Management


OtherSpecialty Symposium on Integrated Surface and Ground Water Management at the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress 2001
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityOrlando, FL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Restoration of riparian zones - A decision support system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this