​​​​​Nevada has many groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs) throughout the state that depend on access to water to sustain them. These include springs, wetlands, phreatophytic communities, riparian zones, rivers, and lakes. These ecosystems are important for wildlife and for humans.

​​​Groundwater provides a buffer to ecosystems during dry periods and critical habitat for rare and endemic species, and the loss of water for natural systems can cause irreversible damage to ecosystems such as the loss of species or habitat. There is a need to quantify groundwater thresholds that can signal what groundwater levels will cause adverse impacts to ecosystems to ensure sustainable groundwater management. To address this need, The Nature Conservancy has published a document titled Groundwater Thresholds for Ecosystems: A Guide for Practitioners in 2020. This document provides a resource to water managers and conservation practitioners by presenting a five-step process for establishing thresholds with varying levels of data availability, as well as three case studies from Texas (USA). When established, groundwater thresholds can protect ecosystems when evaluating new water development projects, groundwater management planning, or meeting legal requirements such as the Endangered Species Act.

In October 2020, we started a project to quantify vegetation use of and dependence on groundwater.

Nevada Indicators of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Story Map and Database 

Please visit the Nevada iGDE Story Map to learn more about groundwater dependent ecosystems in Nevada. Raw data used to prepare the Story Map are available here. Please note that the data are current as of June 2019 and will not be updated.

Source documentation for the Nevada Indicators of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem database are as follows:

Additional resources mentioned on the Nevada iGDE Story Map:

  • Springsnail Conservation Agreement and Strategy: ​​​​​The Nevada Department of Wildlife, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and nine other public partners are working to develop a comprehensive strategy for Nevada and Utah to conserve endemic springsnail species and the spring-dependent ecosystems that support them. A Conservation Agreement committing the partners to this effort was finalized in December 2017, and the partners are now working together to develop the companion Conservation Strategy which identifies the approaches and actions needed to effectively protect and conserve these species on the landscapes of the two states. The strategy focuses on maintaining the function and quality of spring ecosystems to effectively conserve springsnails and other spring-dependent species, while also protecting these important resources for the benefit of other public land users and private landowners.
  • Statewide maps:
    • iGDE Summary Hexagons map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Summary Hydrographic Areas map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Phreatophytes Hexagons map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Phreatophytes Hydrographic Areas map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Wetlands Hexagons map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Wetlands Hydrographic Areas map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Springs Hexagons map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Springs Hydrographic Areas map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Lake&Playas Hexagons map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Lakes&Playas Hydrographic Areas map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Rivers&Streams Hexagons map (JPG, PDF)
    • iGDE Rivers&Streams Hydrographic Areas map (JPG, PDF)

Additional related resources:

  • Ecological departure analysis of TNC-mapped GDEs in Nevada (Badik et al. 2019)
  • Saito et al. (2020): Mapping indicators of groundwater dependent ecosystems in Nevada: Important resources for a water-limited state. Journal of the Nevada Water Resoruces Association, Winter 2020. pp. 48-72.
  • Provencher et al. (2020): All systems are equal: In defense of undervalued ecosystems. Rangelands 42(5): 159-167.
  • Saito et al. (2021): Managing groundwater to ensure ecosystem function. Groundwater 59(3): 322-333.
  • Desert Research Institute work on groundwater-dependent ecosystems, including reports on phreatophyte assessments in hydrographic basins in Nevada        

Acknowledgements: Funding for this work has been provided in part by the Bureau of Land Management, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the NV Energy Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy in Nevada.

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