Rapid Stream Riparian Assessment (RSRA)
On May 1, 2021, a team of eight volunteers conducted the 4th RSRA on a portion of Sonoita Creek just above Patagonia Lake. FOSC Treasurer Dave Christiana coordinated the effort which involved a lot of upfront planning; gathering needed equipment, coordinating volunteers and re-locating and flagging the "Study Reach" using coordinates from past assessments. Prior to heading out to the Study Reach FOSC Science Advisor Kathy Pasierb gave a brief synopsis for the new volunteers of the importance of RSRA and the data obtained from the research. The day started at 8:00am and ended about 4:00pm. This included the group sitting down together to discuss their findings and record them on the score sheet.
Disturbingly, due to over grazing at the park, much of the young understory flora was heavily browsed and the banks of the creek were heavily disturbed.
Due to lack of food cows were eating poison hemlock growing along the creek. We saw one dead cow in the creek and a week later another dead cow in the creek was reported. If over grazing continues the health of this portion of the creek as well as the lake will be compromised.
To view RSRA data for Patagonia Lake: PLSP 2016-2021 Score Comparison
RSRA was developed by a team of scientists looking for a way to quickly and accurately measure existing conditions of lower elevation stream-riparian ecosystems in the inter-mountain west. If problems are discovered, management strategies and restoration efforts can be put into place to mitigate any further issues and work toward building a healthier stream.
Check out the User's Guide for Rapid Stream Riparian Assessment: RSRA User's Guide
In the spring of 2015 FOSC conducted our first RSRA on Sonoita Creek in the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. We went back again in the spring of 2016 and 2019 and surveyed the same stretch of creek per protocol. Our findings were that there was little change in the creek during those surveyed years.
In October of 2016 ten people in two teams conducted a RSRA on Sonoita Creek upstream from Patagonia Lake and downstream from a head cut. We went back to re-survey the area in April 2017 and 2019. Our findings were that the head cut is moving upstream and the stream is severely entrenched and much of the bank in our study reach was unstable. The resulting sediment increase can disrupt ecosystems if it gets too high.
FOSC conducted theri first Wet/Dry mapping of Harshaw Creek on June 5, 2021!
Twelve volunteers showed up early Saturday morning to conduct the first Wet/Dry mapping of Harshaw Creek.
Splitting into three teams of four, with one designated driver for each team, the three groups hop-scotched over each other to map most of the approximately 15 miles of creek bed. Achieving permission from most of the land owners was crucial and allowed us to get a good assessment of the topography of the creek bed as well locations of surface water in the creek. In order to take a measurement we needed at least 30 feet of continuous flowing surface water and the only place we found that was in the section of creek that flows along Harshaw Creek Road.
FOSC Science Advisor, Kathy Pasierb, also brought along a water monitoring kit and we learned how to measure the turbidity (which measures the amount of particles in the water), PH and dissolved oxygen in the creek.
Data will be uploaded into a data base by Dave Christiana, FOSC Treasurer, and available for all who want the info.
Wet/Dry mapping provides a snapshot for monitoring flow conditions in streams with interrupted surface flow. It can flag changes in local groundwater conditions and may provide early warning of ecological changes. Wet/Dry mapping, spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy, has been conducted on the San Pedro River for over 12 years.
For more information on Wet/Dry Mapping: Wet/Dry Mapping Info