Bosque del Apache – BEMP’s 33rd BEMP site!
It was muddy… really, really, muddy. The cold February nights didn’t have much of a chance against the quick warming sunshine that had us in t-shirts before lunch. The hard frosted pathways morphed into to shin-deep sludge that made carrying 50 pound bags of sand, rebar, ladders, and the rest of the site installation supplies much more of a workout than anticipated. It was well worth the mud bath and extra calories burned for our new site at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Collaborative efforts between the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico Tech, and the University of New Mexico helped to make this BEMP site possible. This is the first of two BEMP sites within the designated boundaries of the River Realignment Pilot Project area, an exciting project that involves moving the Rio Grande out of its current channel into a different path. The Rio’s existing channel is narrow, deep, and highly constrained leaving the little room for floodplain interaction. The future path is intended be shallow and wide with potential for the river to meander and create braided channels much like it did historically, before the constraints of levees and dams.
The new Bosque del Apache (BDA) BEMP site exists along the west side of the current channel, about 300m from the river and is east of from the main Bosque del Apache loop. Many of the Refuge’s iconic species of wildlife have been spotted in the area including: Bald Eagles, turkeys, hawks, falcons, waterfowl and even some javelina. This site is shaded by a lovely canopy of smaller diameter cottonwood trees, several large Gooding’s willows, a dense stand of saltcedar along the western side and only a few Russian olives dotted throughout. A wide channel through the center of the site helped distribute flowing water during the high flows of last spring 2017 and we could see the evidence in the form of dried mud rings still caked around most trees and shrubs.
Once the river is encouraged to move into its projected route, we will monitor how this area of bosque changes in response to the river shifting further away. Depth to groundwater might be impacted, vegetation may shift with time and arthropod species may indicate a drier environment. We are looking for another group of curious citizen scientists to help us gather data and examine some of these ecological transitions. This data could help managers to understand how the bosque may change in the face of climate change.
The second BEMP site at the Bosque del Apache will be named the ‘River Realignment (RR)’ site and will be located on the east side of the proposed future river channel. It is expected to be installed this summer so we can begin to gather data before major changes are made to the area and we will see how it responds to a wilder, less constrained river. More mud to come!!
Blog post by Kim Fike, BEMP Science Coordinator