Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018CO347B

History of South Platte River Riparian Ecosystem and Channel Change

Institute: Colorado
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: Not available

Principal Investigators: Jessica Salo

Abstract: The South Platte River system is a key natural resource in Colorado, providing water to the Denver Metropolitan area and other Front Range cities, as well as to downstream municipal and agricultural water users. Stream flow within the South Platte River system has been highly modified to meet these needs. In addition, the South Platte floodplain supports riparian forests and wetlands that provide valuable ecosystem services, including storage of flood waters, groundwater recharge, recreation, and wildlife habitat. The goal of this research is to develop a method to understand historic trends in the South Platte River channel migration and how those changes impact the land cover in riparian ecosystems. The overall research objectives of this study are to (1) collect data from a variety of aerial photographs between the 1950s and present and (2) to quantify the channel and land use change over that time period in riparian ecosystems. Using GIS, I will collect polygons of land cover from each time period for four, 30 km sections of the South Platte River. I will quantify the land cover for each area by reporting the total number of patches, mean patch size, and fractal dimension to get an estimate of landscape complexity. I will use kappa statistics to compare each year to develop an understanding of historic land cover and channel change. The anticipated outcome is a better understanding of how historic hydrologic modification and recent floods have impacted the floodplain forest, and to situate those impacts within the long term context of riparian forest change on the South Platte River system.