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Integrated GIS method for estimation of riparian coverage along the lower Rio Grande Zhuping Sheng Assistant

Professor, Texas A&M University 1380 A&M Circle, El Paso TX 79927 Ph: (915) 859-9111 Fax: (915) 859-1078 z-sheng@tamu.edu Joshua Villalobos Texas A&M University JVillalobos@ag.tamu.edu

Abstract In this paper, the authors use spectral identification of riparian environment to estimate acreages of riparian and open water area (the river, reservoirs and canals) for four geographic reaches along the lower Rio Grande, namely Ft. Quitman to Presidio, Presidio to Amistad Reservoir, Amistad Reservoir to Falcon Reservoir and Falcon Reservoir to the Gulf of Mexico, utilizing several data sources integrated within a GIS system. Riparian area acreage is identified by measuring land with riparian vegetation, while open water area is identified by measuring the coverage of surface water in the river channel. This paper uses seasonal riparian and open water acreage on the US side by reach for the year 1992 as an example to demonstrate procedures of the integrated GIS method. The results indicated that shrub and grass are dominant species, accounting for 86% of total riparian coverage along four reaches. Introduction Water conservation by control of invasive plants and river restoration pose a great challenge for a better characterization of the riparian environment along the Rio Grande. In this paper, spectral identification of riparian environment was used to estimate acreages of riparian and open water areas (the river, reservoirs and canals) for four geographic reaches along the Rio Grande utilizing several data sources integrated within a GIS system. The four river reaches (Figure 1) considered are: Reach 1: Ft. Quitman to Presidio, also called forgotten river, Reach 2: Presidio to Amistad Reservoir, Reach 3: Amistad to Falcon Reservoir and Reach 4: Falcon Reservoir to the Gulf of Mexico. To accomplish the identification of riparian environment, remote sensing and associated data was first acquired and verified for each reach. Sources of data included Texas View Remote Sensing Consortium for Texas (Texasview, 2005), University of Texas at El Paso, and U.S. EPA. Riparian area acreage was then identified by measuring land with riparian vegetation. Open water area was identified by measuring the coverage of surface water in the river channel. This paper presents estimates of seasonal riparian and open water acreage in the US by reach for the year 1992.

DATA SOURCES AND PROCESSING Several sources of data were used to estimate and verify land use types. A combination of several GIS shape files was used to delineate and define the geographic reaches and several (26 total) Landsat 7 ETM+ satellite images were used for verification only. Sources of information include images and data Texas View Remote Sensing Consortium for Texas (Texasview, 2005), University of Texas at El Paso (2005), and U.S. EPA (2005). Due to the large extent of the area (over 1,336 kilometers in length), computer processing capacity, budget and time constraints, selected types of identification techniques were applied to most efficiently identify riparian environments.

Figure 1 Locations of all four reaches along the lower Rio Grande Riparian land use was defined as vegetation associated with wetlands, where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining soil development and the types of plant and animal communities living in the soil and on its surface (Cowardin et al. 1979). In this study, the following vegetative types were included: deciduous forest, evergreen forest, mixed forest, shrubland, grass1ands & herbaceous, woody wetlands and emergent herbaceous wetlands. Multiple 1992 Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics/National Land Coverage Dataset (MRLC/NLCDs) images in tiff format were used (Figure 2) to identify riparian vegetation and land coverage. The open water defined in the MRLC/NLCDs consists of rivers, lakes and canals. The 1992 MRLC/NLCDs images utilized 1991 Landsat 5 images (30 m resolution) to spectrally identify, utilizing a variety of spectral analysis methods, and various land types throughout the contiguous United States.

Based on the Anderson Level I classification (Anderson et al, 1976), the overall accuracy of the 1992 MRLC/NLCD data is ~85% for open water. Based on Andersons (1976) Level II classification, deciduous forest, evergreen forest, mixed forest, shrubland, grasslands/herbaceous, woody wetlands, and emergent herbaceous wetlands had an overall accuracy of ~ 60%.

Figure 2 NLCD/MRLCs used for riparian assessment

GIS Analysis The original MRLC/NLCD images were first reformatted from tiff files into grid files using ArcInfo. This allowed for the clipping of the specific region within each MRLC/NLCD image, which separates a selected area from the whole image and only keeps the data within the selected area. A study area boundary was first identified along the Rio Grande with a GIS shape file for each individual reach (Figure 1). The boundary (or shape) of the shape file was specified by creating a region along the Rio Grande by manually tracing a buffer around the Rio Grande. A manual tracing method was used in lieu of a computer generated buffer because large variation of topography along the Rio Grande makes it difficulty for the computerized buffer to represent regions more accurately. The manual method allowed for the encompassing of pixels that represent either open water of riparian flora that would otherwise not be included if a buffer function was used. Once the regions were identified, a clipping method was used to remove all data outside of the reaches to decrease the overall size of the data and processing time (Figure 3). After the clipping was performed the identification of the pixel IDs that would be used in the identification of riparian environments was done. Pixel IDs were chosen based on either or both their MRLC codes (Cowardin et al. 1979) ability to fit the predefined definition of a wetland and

their proximity to open water or to the Rio Grande. After the clipping the pixel, information within each reachs clip was exported and calculated for total area and acreage for each land type.

Reach 1

Reach 2

Reach 3

Reach 4

Figure 3 Clipped riparian zones for each reach along the Rio Grande Following MRLC Codes (Cowardin et al. 1979) were used in this analysis. 11. Open Water -All areas of open water; typically 25 percent or greater cover of water (per pixel). 41. Deciduous Forest -Areas dominated by trees where 75 percent or more of the tree species shed foliage simultaneously in response to seasonal change. 42. Evergreen Forest -Areas dominated by trees where 75 percent or more of the tree species maintain their leaves all year. Canopy is never without green foliage. 43. Mixed Forest-Areas dominated by trees where neither deciduous nor evergreen species represent more than 75 percent of the cover present. 51. Shrubland- Areas dominated by shrubs; shrub canopy accounts for 25-100 percent of the cover. Shrub cover is generally greater than 25 percent when tree cover is less than 25 percent. Shrub cover may be less than 25 percent in cases when the cover of other life forms (e.g. herbaceous or tree) is less than 25 percent and shrubs cover exceeds the cover of the other life forms.

71. Grasslands and Herbaceous -Areas dominated by upland grasses and forbs. In rare cases, herbaceous cover is less than 25 percent, but exceeds the combined cover of the woody species present. These areas are not subject to intensive management, but they are often utilized for grazing. 91. Woody Wetlands -Areas where forest or shrub land vegetation accounts for 25-100 percent of the cover and the soil or substrate is periodically saturated with or covered with water. 92. Emergent Herbaceous Wetlands -Areas where perennial herbaceous vegetation accounts for 75-100 percent of the cover and the soil or substrate is periodically saturated with or covered with water.

Results
The total riparian vegetative area for the four reaches is estimated to be 27,668 hectares. This includes the following vegetative types associated with riparian zones: deciduous forest, evergreen forest, mixed forest, shrubland, grass1ands & herbaceous, woody wetlands and emergent herbaceous wetlands. Shrub and grass are dominant types of coverage, accounting for 86% of total riparian coverage (Figure 4). The total open water area (river, reservoir and canals) for the four reaches is estimated to be 7,904 hectares. Riparian vegetation cover and open water acreages by river reach are shown in Table 1.

Figure 4 Examples of riparian cover and open water for Reach #4.

For Reach 1, the estimated total area of open water is 77 hectares. The riparian coverage is estimated to be 6,050 hectares. Shrubland accounts for 69% of total riparian coverage and grassland for 26%. No mixed forest and woody wetlands were identified in this reach. For Reach 2, the estimated total area of open water is 3,004 hectares including Amistad Reservoir. The riparian coverage is estimated to be 8,932 hectares. Shrubland accounts for 75% of total riparian coverage and grassland for 22%. No mixed forest and woody wetlands were identified in this reach. For Reach 3, the estimated total area of open water is 3,123 hectares including Falcon Reservoir. The riparian coverage is estimated to be 6,362 hectares. Shrubland accounts for 67% of total riparian coverage and grassland for 18%. For Reach 4, the estimated total area of open water is 1,699 hectares. The riparian coverage is estimated to be 6,325 hectares. Shrubland accounts for 63% of total riparian coverage and grassland for 23%. Table 1- Estimate of open water and riparian zones for four reaches along the Rio Grande Areas (hectares) MRLC Description Code Reach 1 Reach 2 Reach 3 Reach 4 Subtotal Open water 11 77 3004 3123 1699 7904 Total Open Water Riparian Classification Deciduous forest 41 Evergreen forest 42 Mixed forest 43 Shrubland 51 Grasslands/herbaceous 71 Woody wetlands 91 Emergent herbaceous wetlands 92 Total Riparian Coverage Summary and Recommendations In summary, the integrated GIS technology and the MRLC/NLCD images introduced in this paper is an efficient tool for characterization of riparian and open water coverage along the river reaches. It can be used to assess temporal and spatial variation of riparian coverage. The total open water area (river, reservoir and canals) for the four reaches is estimated to be 7,904 hectares. The total area of riparian coverage amounts to 27,668 hectares. The riparian environment is dominated by shrub and grass, which account for 86% of total riparian coverage with variation from one reach to another.
77 4 319 0 4157 1567 0 4 6050 3004 57 159 0 6733 1982 0 1 8932 3123 681 215 38 4251 1126 22 28 6362 1699 882 704 7 2347 1683 38 664 6325 7904 1625 1397 45 17487 6357 59 698 27669

The following recommendations are made for future studies to gain a better understanding of riparian vegetative coverage and their spatial and temporal variation. A more detailed analysis of each reach by identifying major riparian flora in each reach is recommended. Due to elevation and soil type variations in different reaches, dramatic changes were observed in flora types and water availability. As a result, each reach is biologically different and therefore has a unique spectral reflectance. A closer look at the individual reaches and their main riparian flora types will yield a more detailed analysis of riparian environments for each reach. The overall accuracy of the MRLC/NLCD data varies from ~85% for open water to ~60% for deciduous forest, evergreen forest, mixed forest, shrubland, grasslands/herbaceous, woody wetlands, and emergent herbaceous wetlands. The Landsat 7ETM+ images are recommended to be used for a more detailed verification of land types and temporal variation of land uses. By merging of Landsat 7 panchromatic band with 3 (7-4-2) bands it is expected to yield an image with a spectral resolution of 15 meters, instead of the 30 meter resolution of the 1992 MRLC/NLCD, which will help improve accuracy of land use identification. In addition, ground truth may yield a higher accuracy of characterization of riparian environments. References Anderson, J.R., E. E. Hardy, J. T. Roach, and R. E. Witmer. 1976. A land use and land cover classification system for use with remote sensor data, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 964. Cowardin, L. M., V. Carter, F. C. Golet, E. T. LaRoe. 1979. Classification of wetlands and deepwater habitats of the United States. U. S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., Jamestown, ND, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/1998/classwet/classwet.htm (Version 04DEC98). accessed on April 20, 2005. Texasview. http://www.Texasview.org, accessed on April 20, 2005. U.S. EPA. http://www.epa.gov/. accessed on April 20, 2005 UTEP. http://www.geo.utep.edu/, accessed on April 20, 2005.