Using inventory data and input from natural resource professionals, we developed a classification system that categorizes conservation potential for montane natural springs. This system contains 18 classes based on the presence of a riparian patch, wetland species, surface water, and evidence of human activity. We measured physical and biological components of 276 montane springs in the Oscura Mountains above 1450 m and the San Andres Mountains above 1300 m in southern New Mexico. Two of the 18 classes were not represented during the inventory, indicating the system applies to conditions beyond the montane springs in our study area. The class type observed most often (73 springs) had a riparian patch, perennial surface water, and human evidence. We assessed our system in relation to 13 other wetland and riparian classification systems regarding approach, area of applicability, intended users, validation, ease of use, and examination of system response. Our classification can be used to rapidly assess priority of conservation potential for isolated riparian sites, especially springs, in arid landscapes. We recommend (1) including this classification in conservation planning, (2) removing deleterious structures from high-priority sites, and (3) assessing efficiency and use of this classification scheme elsewhere. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.
Additional publication details
Prioritizing conservation potential of arid-land montane natural springs and associated riparian areas