Springs Research


Springs Research at MNA

Current springs-related projects at MNA include: the assessment of springs on several Colorado Plateau tribal reservations; assisting with the Greater Grand Canyon landscape assessment; and assisting the Kaibab National Forest with migration of springs data from our SSI Springs database to the U.S. Forest Service Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDE) database.  We are also working with the Sky Islands Alliance to migrate our Springs Database from a MS Access format to a password-protected online SQL and PHP format so collaborators and researchers can enter, analyze, and query springs data without having to be physically present at MNA.  We also hope to launch online GIS web feature services linked to the online database.  For more information, visit the Springs Stewardship Institute page.

Why are Springs Important?

Springs—ecosystems where groundwater reaches the Earth's surface—are among the most biologically, socio-culturally, and economically important water resources (Stevens and Meretsky 2008). Many endangered species, and numerous rare or endemic species of plants, invertebrates, amphibians, and fish are found only at springs in the United States. Springs are highly sacred to indigenous cultures that use them for water supplies, medicinal, ceremonial, and other purposes. Given the interactions between temperature, precipitation, infiltration, and aquifer dynamics, springs are also sensitive indicators of global climate change. Yet while much attention and funding has been devoted to rivers and streams, springs ecosystems have been largely overlooked in conservation, research, and management. They are abundant across the United States, but in arid and mesic landscapes alike, springs are poorly understood, incompletely mapped, and inadequately protected. This lack of information and attention has resulted in the loss of many springs and springs-dependent natural, sociocultural, and economic resources due to poor management practices. Estimates of impairment or loss of springs in some landscapes exceed 90% (GCWC 2002).

In response to the importance of the resource and the dearth of information about it, we created the Springs Stewardship Institute (SSI) as a global initiative of MNA.  SSI seeks to improve the understanding and stewardship of springs ecosystems, educate the public and resource managers, and foster partnerships to protect these critically endangered ecosystems.  SSI researchers have conducted surveys across the Colorado Plateau, in Southern Arizona, in the Spring Mountains of Nevada, and in Alberta, Canada.  In addition, SSI has collaborated with Dr. Abe Springer of Northern Arizona University as well as other researchers to author papers, book chapters, and books about springs classification, management, ecology, and conservation.