Archive for the 'riparian zone' Category

Become a Texas Waters Specialist

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017
Learning about Texas water.

Learning about Texas water.

This is Passport to Texas

Water is a precious resource, and a new Texas Parks and Wildlife program helps citizens to become certified Texas Waters Specialists.

It comes down to appreciation for the natural world – to realize that everything’s connected. From humans to wildlife; we all need water to survive.

Colin Findley, an AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer, oversees the program, which covers ecosystems to water law.

There’s a curriculum, and also there’s webinars. It’s really just a matter of going to the Texas Parks [and Wildlife] website: tpwd.texas.gov. Search for Texas Water Specialist, and it will take you to that page.

Anyone may register for the course.

There are specific requirements for Texas Master Naturalist, so if you are a Master Naturalist, you go through the representative for Texas Waters for your program to log those hours. But if you’re from the general public, it’s completely free. It takes eight hours of different program requirements to get your certification. To renew it – it’s all about community service. You have to do ten hours of water related community service each year.

Many volunteer opportunities exist for certified waters specialists.

Texas Stream Team. Texas Parks and Wildlife has different volunteer opportunities in terms of water quality, habitat conservation, restoration and management, freshwater inflows. And then, you know, there’s a lot of different coastal restoration projects as well.

Find information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Preserving Riparian Zones

Friday, July 22nd, 2016
Devil's River

Devil’s River State Natural Area.
TPW Photo by Earl Nottingham

This is Passport to Texas

Recent statewide flooding events beat up native vegetation in riparian zones, leaving behind tangles of uprooted trees and shrubs. Landowners’ first instinct is to clean up the mess, but is that the best action to take?

One of the most important and critical components of a riparian area is fallen vegetation.

Ryan McGillicuddy is a Texas Parks and Wildlife conservation ecologist.

As fallen wood—woody debris—start to decompose, they add nutrients to the soil. They act as fish and wildlife habitat. They act as cages that protect new plants. The next generation of trees. The next generation of grasses. It provides a little refuge for those plants to get started before they’re browsed on by wildlife or they’re trampled by foot traffic.

Despite the unsightly nature of this vagrant vegetation, McGillicuddy says it is a critical component of a healthy functioning riparian area. Provided it’s not creating a safety risk, he says to consider leaving it where it is.

Another thing it does is as flood waters do rise up and spill out of their banks, that wood can help slow some of that water down, and help capture sediment. And, when the sediment falls out of the water, it’s actually building the structure of the banks. Adding sediment and new layers of soil, as opposed to it being washed away when there’s not a diversity of species for something like a mowed lawn. Or an area that’s been over-grazed.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has worked with landowners along the flood ravaged Blanco River to revegetate with native plants.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

The Reality of Weak Riparian Zones

Thursday, July 21st, 2016
A healthy river and riparian zone.

A healthy river and riparian zone.

This is Passport to Texas

We call the land that flanks rivers and streams a riparian zone. When these areas are intact with native vegetation, they slow the forces of floodwaters, help capture sediment, filter nutrients, and slow runoff from upland sources. Yet, land use practices over the past 150 years have altered their natural state.

Things like mowing, excessive foot or vehicle traffic, or excessive browsing from either livestock or unmanaged wildlife…

Ryan McGillicuddy is a Texas Parks and Wildlife conservation ecologist.

So, water sheds off quicker, it can contribute to higher peak flows for flooding. And really, those areas become less resilient; they recover less quickly from disturbance events like floods.

Floodwater, can demolish stream and river banks that lack healthy stands of native vegetation.

What happens when you reduce the vegetation diversity and number of species is you lose some of the root stock that these native trees and grasses provide. These native species have very, very deep root systems that act like rebar holding the soil together. So they’re less resistant to erosional forces. So, we end up seeing less stable stream systems.

Helping the land recover after a devastating flood event. That’s tomorrow.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Benefits of Healthy Riparian Zones

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
Brazos River

Brazos River. Image credit: Larry Hodge

This is Passport to Texas

A riparian zone is a transitional area between a stream or river and an upland ecosystem. Conservation ecologist, Ryan McGillicuddy says these strips of land, which can be from 25 to over 200 feet wide, perform vital ecological functions.

They provide excellent habitat for fish and wildlife both in stream and on the land. The leaf litter provides nutrient contributions. The fallen logs provide structural habitat in the stream for fish and wildlife. A lot of the nutrient and diet for some of our sport fish species and the food web within the channel comes from a land source. Structurally, riparian zones provide a number of functions. The plant roots act like rebar and hold the banks of the channel together to resist the force of erosion.

When rain events cause streams and rivers to overflow their banks, riparian zones are the first line of defense.

If you have an intact, healthy riparian zone, it will slow the forces of floodwaters. It will help capture sediment, filter nutrients, slow runoff from upland sources…

These healthy riparian zones also soak up water like a sponge, adding to stream flow during drier times.

Unfortunately, a lot of the land use practices over the last 150 years from really intense settlement have altered the natural state of some of these riparian zones.

Tomorrow: When riparian zones are weakened.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Riparian Zones: Life Along the Edges

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
South Llano River

South Llano River

This is Passport to Texas

The technical name for the land along river and stream banks is riparian zone.

A riparian zone is that special transition zone between the stream channel and the uplands.

Ryan McGillicuddy, a conservation ecologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says riparian zones are diverse.

It’s comprised of different composition of plant species, and it’s critical to the health of both the channel and the uplands. So, it’s a narrow band, but it’s really important in the health and function of a stream and for fish and wildlife habitat.

Depending on the size of the river or stream, a riparian zone can be from 25 to over 200 feet wide. Identifying where the riparian zone ends and the uplands begins isn’t as hard as you might imagine.

It’s basically that area on the slope, coming up away from the channel, until you see things that are more typical of upland vegetation. In the Hill Country, that would be when you start seeing things like cedar and ash juniper.

These strips of land are more than places to bring a picnic or fishing pole.

Riparian zones perform a number of ecological functions, as well as structural functions in protecting streams and keeping them—I guess—resisting forces like erosion.

And we’ll learn more about that tomorrow.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.