Riparian Methods Guide: Monitoring Riparian Areas

Monitoring allows resource managers to quantify and evaluate changes in riparian systems over time. It can be used to assess the implementation of best vegetative management strategies, allowing for adaptive changes to be made where appropriate. Changes in the riparian vegetation are measured relative to a base line or reference condition that is established at the onset of a monitoring effort. Monitoring efforts generally focus on (1) biological integrity, (2) minimally disturbed condition, (3) historical condition, (4) least disturbed condition, and (5) best attainable condition (as defined by Stoddard et al. 2006).

There are four types of monitoring activities:

  1. Baseline: A baseline refers to the reference condition against which change is measured. Establishing the baseline involves characterizing the existing conditions in the riparian landscape. This is accomplished using the methods discussed in the Mapping Methods section. Baseline characterization may utilize data on a variety scales, depending on project goals.
  2. Trends: Monitoring trends involves establishing the nature and direction of changes in the riparian system. Trends are established by comparing multiple iterations of mapping events to the reference condition. Trend monitoring utilizes data on a variety of scales, depending on project goals. Monitoring intervals can vary but are typically on an annual scale.
  3. Effectiveness: Effectiveness monitoring involves establishing the effectiveness of management practices through regional observation. Management practices are spatially distributed activities that are applied on a regional basis. Effectiveness monitoring utilizes medium resolution data, and can involve extended time scales.
  4. Project Impacts: Monitoring project impacts involves assessing the effects of a particular project, such as the restoration of a stream or construction of a bridge. Project impact monitoring typically utilizes high-resolution data over a limited area and time scale.

The planning and design of a riparian monitoring program requires careful consideration of project goals and management needs. Please refer to the Riparian Monitoring Technical Guide (under construction) for an extensive discussion of these issues.

Applying remote sensing to monitoring efforts has a limited history; however, the link below provides information on a method that has proven effective.

  • Change Detection (coming soon!)

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