Riverscapes and Mindscapes Using Inventory, Monitoring, and Biogeography to Explore Riparian Man
The western United States is among the most geographically diverse regions in the world. This heterogeneous landscape has fascinated biogeographers and explorers for centuries, yet poses daunting challenges for environmental managers in search of generalizable frameworks for understanding riparian plant composition, diversity, and resilience. Numerous studies of the last two decades have demonstrated that riparian ecosystems are governed by a complex array of factors that can be viewed hierarchically from large scale biogeographic patterns through less coarse watershed-scale gradients to local scale drivers of hydrology, geomorphology, and biotic and abiotic disturbance. Increasingly, humans influence all levels of the hierarchy. Environmental managers often accumulate management paradigms from institutional knowledge and histories, on-the-job experience and other diverse sources. Consequently, “management domains” presently used in riparian ecosystems may be ad hoc accumulations of knowledge that align haphazardly with biogeographic or other environmental boundaries. Here we discuss the concept of riparian management domains to prompt discussion of how to better align ecological and management boundaries. We will review recent research that compares within-site and among-site patterns in riparian biodiversity. Much of this research has helped to distinguish which elements of riparian ecosystems show a strong biogeographic structure from those that tend to be governed primarily by local environmental and biotic effects. We will also review first principles of riparian biogeography and highlight the value of place-based inventory and monitoring to inform place-based riparian management and restoration and to advance human understanding of riparian ecosystems across the American West.