Climate Change, Riparian Vegetation Removal, and Channel Change on the Colorado River
Gigi A. Richard, Ph.D. Professor, Geology, Director, Hutchins Water Center at CMU, Colorado Mesa University. email@example.com
The introduction and spread of tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) in the riparian zones adjacent to the Colorado River and many of its tributaries in the southwestern US has contributed to increased stability of many of these river channels over the last century. Recent and expanding efforts to remove tamarisk from riparian zones may contribute to increase channel mobility and bank erosion. A collaborative effort to better understand channel response of the Colorado River to tamarisk removal has involved field surveys as well as GIS analysis of channel change in areas with and without vegetation removal from historic aerial photos. Preliminary results suggest that erosion rates were higher during the time period with higher peak flows regardless of whether or not vegetation was removed, and that erosion rates were greater in sites were vegetation removal occurred. The potential impact of climate change on streamflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin will also be discussed.
Dr. Gigi Richard is currently the Director of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University (CMU) in Grand Junction, CO and a Professor of Geosciences at CMU. She holds an M.S. and Ph.D. from Colorado State University and a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all in civil engineering. Gigi created the Watershed Science program at CMU and co-founded the Water Center at CMU, which facilitates education, research and dialogue on water issues facing the Upper Colorado River Basin. Gigi teaches water and environmental science classes and her research on human impacts on rivers systems includes the study of downstream impacts of dams, levees and other human activities on rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and New Zealand. Recent work has focused on the impacts of vegetation removal on channel morphology of the Colorado River.