In the southwestern U.S., many riparian ecosystems have been altered by dams, water diversions, and other anthropogenic activities. This is particularly true of the Colorado River, where numerous dams and agricultural diversions have affected this water course, especially south of the U.S.–Mexico border. In the spring of 2014, 130 million cubic meters of water was released to the lower Colorado River Delta in Mexico. To understand the impact of this pulse flow release on vegetation in the delta’s riparian corridor, we analyzed a modified form of Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI*) data. We assessed greenup during the growing period and estimated actual evapotranspiration (ETa) for the period prior to (yr. 2013) and following (i.e., yr. 2014 and 2015) the pulse flow. We found a significant increase in NDVI* from 2013 to 2014 (P < 0.05) and a decrease from 2014 to 2015; however, 2015 levels were still significantly higher than in 2013. ETa was also higher in 2014 vs. 2013, with an estimated 74.5 million cubic meters in 2013 and 88.9 in 2014. The most intense greening occurred in the zone of inundation but also extended into the non-flooded part of the riparian zone, indicating replenishment of groundwater. These findings suggest the peak response by vegetation to the flow lasted about one year, followed by a decrease in NDVI*. As a long term solution to the declining condition of vegetation, additional pulse releases are likely needed for restoration and survival of riparian plant communities in the Colorado River Delta.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Greenup and evapotranspiration following the Minute 319 pulse flow to Mexico: An analysis using Landsat 8 Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data|
|Series title||Ecological Engineering|
|Contributing office(s)||Southwest Biological Science Center|
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