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University of Texas at El Paso (2022)

Tools To Advance Environmental Monitoring, Wetland Restoration And Education In The Desert Southwest

Pina, Anna Elisa

Titre : Tools To Advance Environmental Monitoring, Wetland Restoration And Education In The Desert Southwest

Auteur : Pina, Anna Elisa

Université de soutenance : University of Texas at El Paso

Grade : Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 2022

Résumé partiel
The relatively rare freshwater ecosystems in the southwestern United States serve as biodiversity hotspots, yet they are among the most threatened systems in the world due to human impacts and climate change. Despite their importance to this arid landscape, the aquatic communities of desert wetlands remain relatively understudied. To restore and create new wetland habitats, effluent is becoming a more commonly used water source for these habitats. However, the effects of byproducts within the treated wastewater on these unique systems have not been well studied. In this study, we aim to better understand the factors that drive water quality and macroinvertebrate community composition of wetlands of the US desert Southwest. In addition, we focused on a local, restored wetland (Rio Bosque Wetlands), to better understand how water quality and community assemblages change with the increased use of treated effluent as a water source. Finally, in an effort to increase awareness of habitat conservation and restoration we created an ecology-based virtual CURE (vCURE) that was implemented to non-science majors attending El Paso Community College.Water quality and macroinvertebrate data were collected over three years from 14 different wetland and riparian sites spanning across West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Results indicated that salinity-related variables such as chloride, sulfate, and conductivity were the greatest drivers of environmental variance. Subsequently, nutrients were shown to have the greatest impact on macroinvertebrate communities with wetlands receiving treated wastewater showing a more uneven distribution of functional feeding groups (sites dominated by filter feeders) and lower Simpson Index scores. Increased salinity levels were also shown to correlate with lower Simpson Index scores thus, a decline in macroinvertebrate diversity and evenness. To track the restoration of the Rio Bosque Wetlands, data collected in 2014, before a change in water regime, and data collected after (2016-2019) was used to determine differences in water quality and macroinvertebrate communities. The increased water inputs during the growing season in 2016-2019, established more permanent bodies of water which affected macroinvertebrate communities by allowing taxa with limited dispersal abilities time to build larger populations. Differences in assemblages within the park were also heavily influenced by the increased nutrients associated with effluent water


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