Archive for the 'Flooding' Category

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.

The Benefits of Flooding

Monday, July 18th, 2016
Pedernales Falls Flooding

Pedernales Falls State Park Flood May 24 2015
© Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

This is Passport to Texas

Torrential rains in 2015 and again in 2016 ended five years of exceptional drought across Texas, but also caused rivers to flood.

It’s important to recognize that floods are a part of a functioning river system.

Ryan McGillicuddy is a Texas Parks and Wildlife conservation ecologist. We tend to focus on the negative impacts of flooding, but ecologically, floods have beneficial functions, too.

Once the water spills out of its normal channel, it infiltrates into that riparian zone, and becomes absorbed by that soil and then acts as a time-release capsule that feeds the river channel; the water makes its way back to the channel in the drier times of the year. There are also a number of fish and animal species that are dependent on floodwaters. There are a number of tree species that thrive on floodwaters. So, ecologically, there are a number of things a functioning floodplains provide.

A riparian zone is the land that parallels rivers and streams. A broad and wide undeveloped floodplain contains plenty of vegetation that forces floodwaters to slow down, giving soil time to absorb them, thus protecting more developed areas downstream.

It gives water a place to go.

Getting to know riparian zones…that’s tomorrow.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

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

A Flood of Volunteer Spirit

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

This is Passport to Texas

Texans are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and pitch in when their state parks need them: such as after the 2015 Memorial Day Floods.

A lot of our friends groups were leading a lot of those efforts.

Audrey Muntz is the volunteer coordinator for Texas state parks. She says she expects opportunities to help flood damaged parks will continue for some time.

Especially for areas where there has been major trail damage, or major damage to work areas or campgrounds.

The floods may have happened eight months ago, but volunteer opportunities to get them sorted are ongoing. And Audrey Muntz says volunteers participate in various projects throughout the year for personal reasons.

There’s this really deep desire to make sure we’re providing this for future generations. So, I really see that through these volunteer efforts.

Interested in becoming a volunteer at your Texas State Parks? Log onto the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and register to become a volunteer, receive updates, and search a wide variety of available projects.

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

Flooding and Aquatic Invasive Species

Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Zebra Mussels

Zebra Mussels

This is Passport to Texas

Texas lakes and rivers are full and flowing again thanks to an influx of water brought on by heavy spring rains. The downside is we could see the spread of invasive species as a result.

06- We always have to be vigilant about invasive species: zebra mussels…giant salvinia…water hyacinths…

Inland fisheries’ Dave Terre says improved water levels and boat ramp accessibility means more boaters on the water. He adds everyone must do what is in their control to prevent the spread of these species.

09- Make sure that you clean your boats and trailers; and dry your boats–and drain your boats–before going onto other water bodies. It’s the law.

Cleaning, draining and drying boats–that’s within our control. Mother Nature is not. When she soaked Texas, it’s possible she also flushed zebra mussels downstream.

25- Certainly, we’ll be monitoring that situation through time, but at this point it’s really unknown what impact these floods will have on the spread of zebra mussels across our state. But, anglers and boaters still need to be mindful about spreading these species by boat. [Clean, drain & dry] is the one thing we do have control over, and one thing that we can do. We’re always concerned about invasive species trying to keep them out of our water bodies. So we need to control what we can control.

Find information about invasive species at

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

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