• wetlands;
  • sedimentation;
  • watershed/riparian linkages;
  • flood disturbance

ABSTRACT: To prioritize sites for riparian restoration, resource managers need to understand how recovery processes vary within landscapes. Complex relationships between watershed conditions and riparian development make it difficult to predict the outcomes of restoration treatments in the semiarid Southwest. Large floods in 1993 scoured riparian areas in the Carrizo watershed on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in east-central Arizona. We evaluated recovery at three of these sites using repeated photographs and measurements of channel cross sections and stream-side vegetation along permanent transects. The sites were mapped as lying on the same soil type, had similar streamside vegetative communities, and were similarly treated through livestock exclusion and supplemental seeding. However, the sites and individual reaches within the sites followed strikingly different development paths. Dramatic recovery occurred at a perennial reach where cover of emergent wetland plants increased from 4.7 percent (standard error = 0.8 percent) in October 1995 to 55.5 percent (standard error = 2.7 percent) in September 2001. At several other reaches, geologic and hydro geomorphic characteristics of the sites limited inputs of fine sediment or surface water, resulting in modest or negligible increases in emergent cover. Recovery efforts for highly valued marshlands in this region should prioritize perennial reaches in low gradient valleys where salty sediments are abundant.