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Ecological Projects >> Ash Meadows >> Indian Springs Restoration

Project:  Indian Springs Restoration, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada

Client:  United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Date:  2008 - 2011

Site Location:   Indian Springs is located within the Warm Springs complex at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.  Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is located approximately 70 miles northwest of Las Vegas and approximately 35 miles east of Death Valley National Park.

Restored Indian Springs outflow channel – April 2011.
Restored Indian Springs outflow channel – April 2011.
Project Summary:
Indian Springs contains two spring sources named North and South Indian Springs. The Warm Springs complex, to which Indian Springs belongs, hosts a unique aquatic and plant spring community that includes rare endemic aquatic species such as the Warm Springs pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis pectoralis), Warm Springs naucorid (Ambrysus relictus) and the median-gland springsnail (Pyrgulopsis pisteri). Past artificial modifications to the springs associated with pioneer settlement and agricultural development caused dramatic changes to the natural spring hydrology, and over time this process change shifted the characteristics of the aquatic habitats. Lower water flows, cooler water temperatures, and marshes that developed became welcome habitat for introduced non-native aquatic species, such as crayfish, mosquitofish and red-rim melania (a snail), which compete with the native aquatic spring species. Because the Warm Springs complex is relatively small and isolated from other Ash Meadows springs by relatively large areas of desert, one goal of spring restoration in this area includes an attempt to eradicate the non-native invasive aquatic species in this system.

Eradication efforts at Indian Springs followed procedures developed in the School Spring restoration. In 2009, water was diverted from Indian Springs to desiccate existing crayfish habitat, while native fish and invertebrates were salvaged from North Indian Spring and housed temporarily at School Spring. In order to ensure complete desiccation and success with the crayfish eradication effort, Otis Bay waited just over one year before starting spring restoration construction in 2011. Because no Warm Springs pupfish inhabited South Indian Spring prior to restoration, reconnection of the North and South Indian spring channels will increase available pupfish habitat.

The Indian Springs Restoration focused on the restoration of natural spring hydrology to increase aquatic habitat for rare endemic species, while also preserving alkali meadow areas containing rare threatened and endangered plants. Specific components of habitat restoration goals at North and South Indian Springs included the restoration of spring outflow channels to their approximate historic locations, eradication of non-native species including crayfish and mosquitofish, creation of naturalized spring habitats with natural downstream thermal gradients for thermal endemic aquatic species, and recovery of the native bank vegetation community.

Project Update:
Spring channel realignment and spring restoration are complete, but re-vegetation efforts by refuge staff are ongoing.

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