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Modelling Development of Riparian Ranchlands Using Ecosystem Services at the Aravaipa Watershed, SE Arizona

Norman, Laura M., Villarreal, Miguel L., Niraula, Rewati, Haberstich, Mark, Wilson, Natalie R.
Land 2019 v.8 no.4
agricultural land, aquifers, arid zones, dry environmental conditions, economic valuation, ecosystem services, hydrologic models, markets, meteorological data, open space, pollution load, range management, rangelands, right of access, runoff, sediment yield, shrublands, shrubs, soil water, surface water, water budget, water quality, water yield, watersheds, Arizona
This paper describes how subdivision and development of rangelands within a remote and celebrated semi-arid watershed near the US–Mexico border might affect multiple ecohydrological services provided, such as recharge of the aquifer, water and sediment yield, water quality, flow rates and downstream cultural and natural resources. Specifically, we apply an uncalibrated watershed model and land-change forecasting scenario to consider the potential effects of converting rangelands to housing developments and document potential changes in hydrological ecosystem services. A new method to incorporate weather data in watershed modelling is introduced. Results of introducing residential development in this fragile arid environment portray changes in the water budget, including increases in surface-water runoff, water yield, and total sediment loading. Our findings also predict slight reductions in lateral soil water, a component of the water budget that is increasingly becoming recognized as critical to maintaining water availability in arid regions. We discuss how the proposed development on shrub/scrub rangelands could threaten to sever imperative ecohydrological interactions and impact multiple ecosystem services. This research highlights rangeland management issues important for the protection of open space, economic valuation of rangeland ecosystem services, conservation easements, and incentives to develop markets for these.