A method was developed to characterize ecological integrity of riparian sites based on the abundance of hydric species. This wetland index can be calculated with species data, or with community type data as performed here. Classified riparian community types were used to describe vegetation at 14 livestock exclosures and adjacent grazed areas. Community type wetland index values were generated and used to calculate site wetland index values. It was hypothesized that removal of livestock would result in higher wetland index values because of release from herbivory and decreased physical disturbance of vegetation, streambanks, and soil. The wetland index for exclosures was about 12% higher than grazed sites; differences were statistically significant (p < 0.01) based on paired t-tests. The increase in hydric vegetation after livestock exclusion may have contributed to the greater bank stability (p = 0.002) and smaller width-to-depth ratio (p = 0.005) in exclosures. Challenges were encountered in using community types to describe and compare site vegetation, which could be avoided with species data collection. The wetland index can be a tool to monitor sites over time, compare sites with similar environments, or compare sites for which environmental differences can be accounted. ?? 2007 American Water Resources Association.
Additional Publication Details
Use of a wetland index to evaluate changes in riparian vegetation after livestock exclusion
Journal of the American Water Resources Association