Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Fens of Grand Mesa, Colorado: Characterization, impacts from human activities, and restoration
by Austin, Gay, M.A., Prescott College, 2008, 131; 1456718
Abstract (Summary)

In the southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado 1800’s water law encouraged water development of reservoirs, dams, and ditches on Grand Mesa, leading to a subsequent loss of fen habitat. Today demand for water collection and recreational motorized travel is increasing on Grand Mesa. To determine the distribution and vegetation of fens on Grand Mesa and impacts from human activities, we surveyed and analyzed wetlands in the research area. Eighty-eight fens, fifteen wet meadows, and two marshes on Grand Mesa, Colorado, were surveyed for vegetation, rare plant species, organic soil C, and impacts from human activities. Soil analysis of organic C was critical for distinguishing fens from wet meadows. Organic C ranged from 13.6% to 44.1% in fens and 0.5% to 13.0% in wet meadows and marshes. The fens, supported by perennial groundwater flow occurred in depressions of landslide and glacial deposits as well as on slopes. Multivariate analysis was used to analyze vegetation patterns and relationships between environmental and impact variables. Stand wetness, water table depth, organic C, conductivity (EC), and temperature determined the vegetation variability in undisturbed fens, wet meadows, and marshes on Grand Mesa. Vegetation variability in impacted fens was determined by flooding, sedimentation, stand wetness, water table depth, organic C, EC, and temperature. Forty-two fens had human impacts from ditching, drainage, flooding, or vehicular rutting. Forty-six fens had no impacts. Nineteen sites had potentially restorable fens. Restoration potential was questionable for one fen that had multiple pipeline excavations, another fen used as an irrigation channel for water to a reservoir, two sites flooded regularly for water storage, and four remnant fens on the edges of larger flooded peat bodies. Fourteen fens had hydrological impacts and peat subsidence which were likely permanent. Aerial photographs from 1936, 1978, 1988, and 2007 and condition scalars were used to quantify impacts from dams, flooding, ditches, trails, and roads in fens as well as vegetation changes. Fen restoration opportunities on Grand Mesa, such as blocking ditches in fens and filling in ruts, are abundant. The potential for carbon sequestering might help provide funding and incentive for fen conservation and restoration.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cooper, David J.
Commitee: Bingham, Robin, Langmaid, Kim
School: Prescott College
Department: Environmental Studies
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 47/01M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Botany, Ecology
Keywords: Fen, Fen restoration, Grand Mesa, Histosol, Peat, Peatland
Publication Number: 1456718
ISBN: 978-0-549-71597-9
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