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Restoration Benefits to Natural Springs in the Lake Mary Watershed
- Nash, Clairisse, Tecle, Aregai, Craig, Ashley
- Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science 2015 v.46 no.1 pp. 30-36
- aggregate stability, bank erosion, biodiversity, climate change, drinking water, ecosystem services, ecosystems, elks, environmental health, fire suppression, grazing, groundwater, habitats, lakes, land use, prioritization, risk, soil aggregates, springs (water), stream channels, vegetation cover, water balance, water purification, watersheds, wetlands, Arizona
- Hoxworth Springs are one of several natural spring systems located within the Lake Mary Watershed in northern Arizona. The springs serve as critical water resources and contribute to the overall water budget for Lake Mary. Lake Mary is an artificial reservoir that supplies municipal drinking water for Flagstaff, Arizona, and surrounding communities. This area is therefore important to overall water security in the region and necessitates prioritization of its natural integrity. Springs that feed into the greater Lake Mary watershed form wetlands in the immediate area, which provides wetland habitat in an otherwise arid ecosystem matrix. Wetlands provide numerous benefits and ecosystem services including water purification, increased biodiversity and ecosystem health. However, these important wetlands and spring systems are in danger of disappearing due to increased demand for groundwater and mismanagement of land surrounding these streams. Activities that lead to changes in land use include fire suppression, climate change, and increased grazing along the fragile stream channels. These activities lead to increased risks of bank erosion and other structural stream degradation. To ameliorate the situation, restoration efforts such as stream re-channelization and construction of elk exclosures were implemented to minimize grazing in and around Hoxworth Springs in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This study examined the current state of Hoxworth Springs and assessed the effects of restoration on surface soil aggregate stability, vegetation cover and channel width. We found that restoration efforts significantly improved surface soil aggregate stability and stabilized stream width and water retention structure. Native sedge vegetation cover was indicative of restored areas, indicating that initial efforts to establish this important wetland species were successful. In untreated areas, soil stability was significantly lower, groundwater was absent and stream width was significantly wider. This study concluded that restoration efforts in the Hoxworth Springs system were successful, but further restoration needs be implemented to restore further areas in the watershed.