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Project ID: 2005MT62B

Title: STUDENT FELLOWSHIP: Composition and spatial patterns of riparian ecosystems in the West Fork River watershed

Project Type: Research

Focus Categories: Ecology, Geomorphological Processes

Keywords: riparian

Start Date: 03/15/2005

End Date: 06/30/2006

Federal Funds: $3,000

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $0

Congressional District: At Large

Principal Investigator:
Duncan T. Patten
Montana State University


Riparian zones provide several ecological services, including buffering for water quality, bank stabilization, and wildlife habitat.  The objectives of this study are to (a) describe the riparian vegetation community across environmental gradients within the West Fork of the Gallatin River watershed, as well as (b) develop a predictive model to assess the spatial patterns of riparian areas using terrain variables.  The West Fork of the Gallatin River is being rapidly developed due to the resort community of Big Sky, initiating a need to better understand the composition and controls on the riparian ecosystem within the watershed.  In addition to describing an important ecological community, no quantitative model exists to predict the extent of riparian areas (both vertically and laterally from the channel), for mountainous watersheds within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Understanding the controls on the extent of the riparian area will allow scientists and land managers to better predict both the amount of riparian habitat available, as well as the amount of potential buffering area within the watershed.    Vegetation was sampled in 180 nested plots, over 15 kilometers of stream in the summers of 2005-2006.  Each plot was assigned a wetland indicator score indicating the degree of hydrophytic vegetation present in the community, which will be used to assess the riparian-upland ecotone on the landscape.  In 2004 a 5 m. digital elevation model was created using Airborne Laser Swath Mapping (ALSM).  Terrain data will be extracted from this high vertical resolution ALSM imagery at each vegetation plot location.  Analysis is currently being done to describe the vegetation community over the elevational gradient, assess the terrain conditions associated with a threshold wetland indicator score, and develop a model to predict the extent of the riparian area throughout the watershed. 

Progress/Completion Report PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Thursday June 9, 2005 11:24 AM
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