Ecological Assessment and Rehabilitation Prioritization for Improving Springs Ecosystem Stewardship

Kyle Paffett, Abraham E. Springer, Lawrence E. Stevens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

11 Scopus citations


Springs are highly productive, biologically diverse, and culturally important but are highly threatened groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Assessment of the ecological integrity and rehabilitation potential of springs differs geomorphologically, ecologically, and socioeconomically from those of other lotic and lentic aquatic ecosystems. The Museum of Northern Arizona's Springs Stewardship Institute developed the springs ecosystem assessment protocol (SEAP), a rapid assessment approach based on quantitative data and expert evaluation of the condition of and risk to springs in relation to physical, biological, and sociocultural characteristics and impacts. The SEAP identifies the ecological conditions and risks within and among springs within landscapes, and provides coarse-scale stewardship prioritization. We conducted a SEAP analysis on 153 randomly selected springs in Coconino and Kaibab National Forests in northern Arizona, and used those results to inform forest managers and develop stewardship prioritization criteria (SPC) to facilitate agency-based stewardship prioritization and planning. Springs in moderate ecological condition and at moderate risk were likely to maximize rehabilitation benefit-cost ratios, and therefore were considered to be higher priority. Combined scientific (SEAP) and management assessment and prioritization (SPC) was used to select 50 high priority sites for rehabilitation planning in the two forests. The coupled SEAP-SPC approach stimulated a partnership among Kaibab National Forest, a grazing allotment holder, and two Native American tribes to restore two forest springs on North Kaibab Ranger District in 2014. This two-stage approach is recommended as an effective means of integrating science with management criteria to improve the ecological sustainability of springs ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWetland and Stream Rapid Assessments
Subtitle of host publicationDevelopment, Validation, and Application
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780128050910
ISBN (Print)9780128050927
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Ecological integrity
  • Ecological risk
  • Ecosystem
  • Inventory
  • Management prioritization restoration
  • Rapid assessment
  • Springs
  • Stewardship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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