Great Basin Naturalist


Changes in vegetation including area occupied, canopy cover, and maturity class of cottonwoods (Populus spp.) within lower-elevation zones of the Colorado River and Rio Grande in Colorado were monitored over 25- and 27-year intervals, respectively, using photo-interpretative methods. Estimated loss of cottonwoods along the Colorado River was 2ha/km (−17.5%), and remaining stands had become more open and older. Cottonwoods along the Rio Grande increased 1.6 ha/km (9.3%) with minor canopy cover and maturity class changes. Area occupied by shrubs and river channel changed little along the Colorado River, but declined along the Rio Grande. Loss of hay meadow occurred along both rivers, whereas developed land increased along the Colorado River and farmland increased along the Rio Grande. Wildlife habitats along the Colorado deteriorated much more rapidly than those along the Rio Grande during monitored intervals.