Spring-Fed Wetlands

Important Scientific and Cultural Resources of the Intermountain Region

May 7-9, 2002

Thanks to the following for making this conference and these proceedings possible:

  • Anna Lander McDonnell - Lander Endowment
  • Desert Research Institute
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • Southern Nevada Water Authority
  • UNR, Biological Resources and Research Center
  • UNR, Nevada Biodiversity Initiative
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Thousands of springs and seeps are scattered throughout alpine, mesic, and zeric regions in the western U.S. Human activity has focused on these sites for thousands of years because they often provide much of the reliable water across large landscapes that receive limited precipitation.

Research over the past 50 years has documented that springs also: 1) provide geological, geochemical, and biological indicators of current and past hydrology, ecosystems, and climates, 2) indicate aquifer persistence and long-term water availability, and 3) provide habitat for a wide diversity of endemic aquatic and terrestrial life. Many western springs are occupied by protected species, and their fauna has experienced the highest extinction rate known in the western U.S.

Researchers, resource users, and resource managers are often unfamiliar with many aspects of the cultural, hydrologic, and biological importance of springs. This conference provides an opportunity to explore the importance of spring resources and associated wetlands for human use and how management can facilitate compatible use across landscapes that constitute a hierarchy of ecosystems. Papers and abstracts include the following topics:

  • Ecology. Importance of springs to endemic and wide ranging plant and animal species, ecological characteristics of aquatic and riparian systems, biogeographical considerations, ecosystem response to cultural uses;
  • Hydrology/Geology. Relationships between springs and aquifers, geochemical characteristics, resource persistence, local and regional geology;
  • Paleohydrology/Paleoecology. Influences of past climates on biological communities and ground water resources;
  • Cultural Use. Historical and prehistoric uses, importance to rural and urban lifestyles and economies, and relevance of State water rights;
  • Resource Management. Current and past environmental conditions, current and past management direction, rare species conservation, restoration priorities and methods

Many of the papers focus on developing approaches to build collaborative relationships among competing interests so that arid-land spring resources can be used while their biological integrity is maintained.