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The Training, Use, and Water Quality Effects of Riparian Proper Functioning Condition Assessment in Nevada
AuthorGibson, Robert J.
AdvisorSwanson, Sherman R.
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The limited spatial extent of riparian systems in Nevada belies their importance to the production of ecosystem services by the landscape as a whole. Management of these systems is complicated by legacy effects of historic management, contrasting and often conflicting perspectives among stakeholders, and differing philosophies and mandates among the various land management agencies charged with their care. Recently, there has been interest in increased collaboration in the management of riparian areas to mitigate these challenges. In widespread use in Nevada for up to 15 years, Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) assessment is a qualitative method for rapid riparian assessment. We investigated the effectiveness of the teaching of PFC, its utility in the field, and current use in management through a survey of class participants, field users, and land managers. The results indicate that PFC is widely supported by those who use it. The technical aspects of performing PFC seem to be slightly better understood than its more nuanced use in building cooperation and trust among stakeholders and developing appropriate, adaptive, and collaborative management for riparian areas and their adjoining uplands. High quality water is understood to be a product of functional ecosystems. If PFC is helping managers steer riparian areas toward higher functionality, there should be improvements in physical, chemical, and biological water quality. Through statistical analysis of a variety of available data, we looked for evidence of such a relationship. While we were not able to show a connection between PFC-driven management and water quality, the attempt to do so provided insight into some challenges of using water quality standards and monitoring as a basis for riparian management and suggested some appropriate directions for future study.